Being “on show” all day is exhausting – the new surroundings, routine, friends and expectations are the perfect ingredients for an almighty meltdown when they see you, often before they even get home. You may need to greet them with a snack in your hand to steady rapidly declining blood sugar and their lunchtime nap could even be reintroduced if necessary.
This is a normal part of development, according to clinical psychologist Dr Sharon Lewis, who specialises in working with parents of under-fives. “Crying is to be expected when a baby is separated from their primary care giver,” explains Dr Lewis. “At a later stage, such as starting nursery, a child will often cry at drop-off for a few minutes but then move on and engage with what’s happening around them.” After a while, a bond builds with the teacher and the child feels secure. “Warning signs that separation anxiety has increased include bed wetting, stomach aches, nightmares, refusing to go to school and a fear that something may happen to the parent while they are out of sight,” says Dr Lewis.
Elaine Halligan, from The Parent Practice, offers this sage advice: “Be your child’s emotional coach – allow your child to be upset. Don’t deny or ignore their feelings by telling them to be a big boy and not to cry. Instead, acknowledge that it can be hard to say goodbye and accept they may feel sad when you leave them. Allowing these emotions to be expressed alleviates the stress these feelings are causing. Encourage your child to talk about how they feel, if they can.” (For more parenting advice, their new book written by Melissa Hood, Real Parenting for Real Kids, í16.99 from Practical Inspiration Publishing, is out now.
There are easy steps to take to help reduce separation anxiety:
- Be consistent at drop-off and pick-up
- Have a goodbye ritual and stick to it
- Reflect on your feelings about separation – could your emotions be influencing theirs?
- Play out the goodbye scenario together at home first
- Take a favourite toy in to comfort them
Visit the nursery beforehand so it’s familiar Like any new phase, starting nursery can trigger a flurry of mixed emotions, but being prepared, staying calm and taking time to evaluate what lies ahead will make the change easier.
WHAT AM I ENTITLED TO?
Free nursery education
- Children can receive a free part time nursery education place from September 1st, January 1st, or April 1st following their third birthday consisting of up to 15 hours per week, 38 weeks of the year, or a minimum of 33 weeks.
- Children moving to England from another country are also entitled to free nursery education.
Free nursery education providers
Types of providers offering free nursery education for three- and four-year-olds include maintained nursery schools or primary school nursery classes.
- Are council-run nurseries
- Usually open 9am-3.15pm
- Are free to all parents/carers and offer up to 15 hours a week
Many provide before-school and afterschool childcare. They generally do not provide nursery places for two-year-olds.
When should I apply?
The closing date for applications for nursery places within a maintained primary school for entrance from September 2016 was Friday February 12th 2016. Each year follows a similar time frame. Planning ahead is essential.
WHAT IS THE EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE?
- The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the time in your child’s life between birth and five. Their early-years experience should be happy, active, exciting, fun and secure, but it must also support their development, care and learning needs.
- Nurseries, preschools, reception classes and childminders registered to deliver the EYFS must follow a legal document called the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.
- The EYFS Framework exists to support all professionals working in the EYFS and was developed with a number of early years experts and parents.