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STARTING NURSERY SCHOOL
By Claire Marketos

You have a lump in your throat and feel anxious about dropping your little one off at nursery school. Trying to hide your thoughts from your child and hoping that he will settle easily, he senses your concern and is reluctant to go. It can be traumatic for some little ones having to separate from being with mom or a caregiver all day. Adjusting to life at nursery school can take a while.

Bearing this in mind be patient and sensitive to your child’s needs, giving him the space to express his fears, concerns, likes and dislikes around school. Acknowledge his feelings and listen carefully to what he is saying as it will guide you and the teachers in helping him settle. Here are some more tips:

* Chat to your child in a positive way before school starts. He will probably have met his teacher and visited the school so ask him what he liked and what he is looking forward to as well as what he is apprehensive about. Acknowledge his feelings and reassure him. If you find the dialogue is upsetting him then change the conversation and try again later. You don’t want to create uneasiness, the very thing you are trying to manage.  

* Explain to him what will happen on the first day: You or dad will get him ready, walk him in to school and stay with him for a while. Then he will go with his teacher and new friends to paint, play, eat his snack, and listen to stories. Soon after that you will come back to fetch him.

* Let him choose his school bag and help you pack his lunch box. Packing a comforter such as a T shirt of yours he can hug if he feels lonely or some of your kisses in an envelope he can draw on if he needs one, may help him if he is very nervous. Avoid sending toys to school.  

* It is important that you are calm and in control on the first day and can separate easily from your little one. If you have difficulties leaving your child and keep going back to say goodbye you will make your child fretful. Take your partner with you if it will help ease your angst.

* Ask the staff at the school to help you. Sensitive teachers and caregivers are adept at acknowledging a child's feelings and making him feel safe and secure. They can settle a child fairly quickly, ensuring he remains happy for the rest of the day.

* When you drop your child off walk around the class with him and talk about all the interesting things you can see. Chat to some of the other children, and encourage your child to go and play with them.

* Read your little one a story from one of the books in the class, or start a puzzle with him, which the teacher or caregiver can complete when you leave.

* Then tell your child you are going to work or the shops and will be back later to fetch him. Explain to him that you will never leave him, and you will always come back to fetch him. One kiss and one hug goodbye and hand your child over to a teacher. Try not to hang around once you’ve said goodbye as it prolongs the worry around you leaving.

* Do not be afraid of asking a specific teacher or caregiver that you think is kind and sensitive to help you. Be quite forceful so that your child's needs are met.

* By all means arrange with the school to phone later and see how your child is doing.

* When you collect your child ensure you are on time and don't tell him you missed him or ask him if he is allright .Rather focus on all the fun things he did and the other kids in the class. If little one tells you he missed you, reassure him by saying, "Yes I know it's hard when mom has to go to work. I’m here now. I came back to fetch you."

* The next morning when you take him to school, talk about something positive he enjoyed doing yesterday, or an activity he can look forward to during the day like baker man, water play, or painting.

*If your child continues crying after several weeks and is clearly not settling down, you should speak to the teachers to establish what the underlying cause might be. 

Remember that your child is still very young, and it is essential that he is happy at school, and  his needs are being met at all times. If he is not happy, it may be necessary to look at other nursery schools or he may be better off at home with you or a caring nanny for another six months.

(Published in Every Little Thing Birth and Beyond Magazine)

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