Friday, 19 September 2014

Settling into nursery

This week has been all about my middle child, as she started nursery (preschool). We have been talking about it for so long (always seeing her older brother go to school, she has been desperate to join in!) and now it is happening. The nursery she is attending is a different one to those my son went to, due to the fact we are living in a different area and she can not go to the nursery at my son's school until next September when she is already three.

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed in the nursery's handling of the settling in process this first week. I had arranged for my aunt to come and stay this week to look after the baby while I help my daughter settle in at nursery but I did not anticipate having to spend as much time there as I did! The first day I had to stay the whole session. That seems a little extreme to me, not even trying out leaving her for a few minutes. Whilst I understand she needs to feel comfortable in her new surroundings, I do think we need to be realistic from the beginning and help her understand this is a place for her to stay and mummy to leave!

I did get to leave on her second day but only after I suggested it, having been there over an hour. They allowed me out for an hour and then called me just as I was returning to say she was fine but had been asking about me and they thought I needed to be there again.

On day three (her last day for the week), I took matters into my own hands somewhat. I approached the staff  member my daughter had warmed to most and spoken about at home. I told her that I thought she would be a reassuring presence if my daughter got upset. I said I wanted to leave sooner rather than later to start getting her used to being dropped off and this lady told me that was all fine and she would come and sit with my daughter.

To cut a long story short, a couple of other members of staff had suggested I should not leave but I ignored them and left. My daughter did great, there were no phonecalls for me to return and I left her the whole time, returning just before the session finished. I was so proud of her and also glad I trusted my own instincts!

When I think back to my son starting nursery, he went to a lovely, very caring setting when he was the same age as my daughter is now. They naturally did not want any of the children to be upset during the settling in of the first week or so but nobody ever had to stay the whole session! If I remember correctly, we all sat in the classroom for a little while then if our child seemed happily engaged in an activity, we left and went for a coffee nearby in case they needed to call us to come back. I liked the way they handled things.

When he went to the nursery at his current primary school, aged three, we were told we could stay for the first ten minutes until they called them all over to sit on the carpet and then we had to leave. That was settling in! They dealt with any upset as they saw fit and whilst some children were clearly happier than others at first, it all went smoothly and there was never any child who was inconsolable.

Obviously, I recognise the nursery staff have every best intention and want to avoid any child being overly-distressed. However, part of their job is helping children feel at ease in the new environment and figuring out how best to do that, according to the individual child's personality.After this week, I also think listening to the parent is pretty important too! My daughter is different to my son who was always very comfortable at being left from day one at nursery. My daughter is more likely to get upset when I leave her but I know too that some attention and some distraction work wonders and she is soon happily engaged in various activities.

Leaving a child to stay at a nursery/preschool is a big deal and can be an overwhelming time for some children. They need lots of reassurance. They need to develop their own confidence in being left without mummy, knowing that she will be back. I have friends whose children have taken weeks, months even, to be comfortable being left at nursery. There have been hysterical tears as their parents say goodbye and leave but then they return to happy faces and to be told that their child soon settled down after they left. It is not easy for the parents either!

What has your experience been with settling your own children into nursery/preschool? What kind of approach do you like best?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Here we go again!

After a few weeks of an unannounced break on the blog, I am back! We had a lovely family holiday before school started up again and I was very much of the feeling that I wished the holidays were not over! I enjoyed spending extra time with my son who is usually at school and having a break from the daily routine. However, time marches on and here we go again with a new school year stretching ahead.

The summer holidays seem a distant memory already as we embark on week two of school for my son. Now in year one, there is less playing and more learning! As a parent it can be hard to balance the encouragement you want to give them to do well at things like their writing and maths, whilst also respecting the fact that they are only little five and six year olds, who should still be getting plenty of fun and playing in their lives too.

My eldest daughter will start nursery next week, which will add a new dimension to our daily routine. My son settled into nursery like a dream, there were never any tears or upset. I suspect things will be a little different with my daughter but we shall see... I was comforted last week when we went to her nursery for an open day, that after a few minutes she immersed herself into the various activities they had out and by the time we needed to leave, it was a struggle to get her to do so!

Not wanting to exclude the baby, she is approaching six months and so weaning is on the close horizon. I remember with my other two children, that I loved the stage around seven months when they are interacting and their personality is starting to emerge more. They are usually being rather smiley to people, sitting up but still not on the move, eating proper food and generally being quite cute all round!

There is something about the start of a new school year that feels a bit like a new calendar year. The shift from holidays back into more structured days, the season beginning to move from summer into autumn, the 'clean slate' that comes with a first day of school.... I like it! I feel ready for the changes and challenges to come, perhaps reinvigorated from the long summer days and happy family time. As much as I love summer, there is a comforting sense that autumn brings with the cosy nights as it gets darker earlier and as the leaves begin to change colour and fall from the trees. We still have the sunshine, I can see butterflies in the garden as I write this, and there is a feeling of energy and enthusiasm after the summer break.

How are you and your family feeling at this time of year? If you have school age children, are they enjoying being back or is there still a period of adjustment going on, as they get back into the swing of things after the holidays?
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