Working Mum - All grown up
Monday, October 31, 2016
The transition to school nursery is bitter sweet for Working Mum
Not only has Dear Daughter 2 (DD2) just turned four, she’s now completed the first half-term at school nursery. Starting attending the same school as her big sister was a much-anticipated milestone in our household. For DD2, it means she now proudly wears a school uniform, has a book bag and shoes full of sand every evening. For me, it signals the welcome end of drop-offs and collections at two settings, but also another step towards the ‘baby’ of our family becoming independent. It’s bitter-sweet.
After months of talking about this transition, it’s a surprise that the first six weeks have practically disappeared. This is all thanks to DD2 settling in so well. Staff are warm, caring and greet her by name when we walk into the school grounds. No wonder she already feels like she belongs.
Before the summer holidays there was a parents’ meeting, without children, where we were given more information about the nursery day and settling-in process. This was followed by a 30-minute slot for us to take our children in to the nursery. Disappointingly, it was something of a form-filling exercise. Luckily, DD2 swiftly found the water play area, while I completed the forms. I would have preferred to fill them out at home and have the opportunity to actually talk about my child instead. After half an hour my daughter didn’t want to leave, she was enjoying herself too much – a feeling shared by another girl who walked out in tears.
We were given A3 sheets of paper to create a poster with DD2 to tell others their interests and who is special to them. I was told that it’s to enable staff and children to get to know each other. They are discussed in carpet time and also used if a child needs comforting. I liked being able to give some insight into my daughter’s character – her love of her sister and big cousin and fascination with penguins, diggers and books. It was also good to receive a sheet with the names and photos of the nursery team. We stuck it on a kitchen cupboard and DD2 enjoyed looking at it with her sister.
It’s a 50-place nursery and we were informed that it’d take a few weeks to gradually settle everyone in. It was a couple of weeks into the summer holidays before we were told when our children would start and parents, especially those who work, were getting anxious trying to negotiate childcare arrangements. All children were allocated two hours to attend the nursery with their parent during the first week of term, then given a morning to go in by themselves for three hours, including lunch, before going for a full day if all went well.
Thankfully, DD2 was in the first group to start. Some parents faced a few weeks’ gap between their two-hour visit and their child going alone, which many thought too long. But my friend was relieved to be given a later start date as she was struggling to toilet-train her summerborn son. She has since been assured by nursery staff that they will support her.
I rightly anticipated that DD2 would be excited to start at the school nursery. She is fortunate to be an October-born child, familiar with the school and some staff through her older sister attending and already used to being in a daycare setting.
DD2 couldn’t wait to get stuck into playing and wasn’t bothered when I said goodbye on the first day. What I hadn’t anticipated was there being a slight problem on the next day. She was happy to be at nursery but wanted me to stay with her like other parents, so I stayed for ten minutes and then said my goodbyes. I mentioned this issue to her key person who understood and said that she’d explain in carpet time why some parents would be staying to settle their children for the next few weeks.
We recently returned to DD2’s former day nursery to visit the staff and her friends. She was pleased to show them her uniform and told them how much she likes being at school. When we drive past her school she gleefully shouts out, ‘That’s my playground’, and has even insisted on wearing her uniform at the weekend. I may be sad that she’s growing up, but she’s embracing the new adventure.
A WORD OF ADVICE
Settings can take a number of steps to help new families with transition, says James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge
Starting at a new setting will be a momentous occasion for both a child and their families. It can be a time of great excitement but equally it can also be a source of significant anxiety for many. However, with the right preparation and support, the overwhelming majority of children will settle relatively quickly.
There are a number of things we can do to help ensure that a new start is a positive experience:
• During pre-visits, ensure parents and children have time to explore the setting and to play together. Be on the look-out for any children who seem particularly anxious. Consider inviting these children and their parents back for additional visits so they have more time to become familiar with the nursery in advance.
• The importance of good communication cannot be overestimated – it is vital for families to know exactly what will happen and when. Consider giving families a short written reminder of key information such as their start dates, times and where to go on day one.
• Often there is a long break between the initial visit and the child starting. To help with this, consider providing families with photos of key staff and also of the rooms and outdoor spaces they will be using.
• Find an opportunity very early on to communicate with parents about how their child is settling in. Parents will be desperate to know how you think they are doing and also to share with you their views. This can be achieved in a variety of ways; for example, by sending home short notes or photos. The key is to make sure this is a two-way process.