Separation anxiety. You may have heard the term, but what does it actually mean? Your child may cling to you as you’re leaving the setting. They may cry, scream, shout, or run after you. As distressing as it may seem, this is all a perfectly natural response and is more common than you think. This is what is known as separation anxiety.
In most cases, children will grow out of their fear and anxiety of separating from their main carers, and as they familiarise themselves with the new setting and build secure attachments with their teachers and caregivers, you will notice a significant decrease in these behaviours. In this article, we will cover some of our top tips to ensure a smooth transition into nursery, and to reduce separation anxiety as best we can.
Tips for Easy Transition
It isn’t an easy transition for you or your child when they first begin at nursery, but with a little patience and consistency, you will both find the shift much smoother.
1. Be prepared for anything
When the day comes, you may find your child is fighting it even before they get to the gate, or they may stroll in completely fine, only realising after a few minutes that you are gone. Each day may be different. Nursery staff are highly trained on how to deal with these behaviours, so rest assured your child will be settled in no time.
2. Make sure that your child is aware
They should know that they will be attending nursery on that day, and try to keep your morning routine as consistent as possible. With familiarity comes security. Your child will be more mentally prepared for the day ahead.
3. Bring a comfort toy or blanket
Bring anything that may be special to your child which may help settle them. For nap times, it may be useful to provide an object which smells like home.
4. When the time comes to say goodbye, be strong, firm and fair
Be strong even though you may be falling apart inside and try to keep it short. You may feel that hanging around for some time may help, and while it does to some extent, the same reaction will inevitably occur when you leave. Say goodbye, assure your child that you will be back and leave with a smile on your face (however hard that may be).
5. Always follow through on your promises whenever you can
Try not to say “I’ll be back in a minute” if you won’t. For those who understand, you could say “I’ll see you after lunch!”
6. While it may feel like the easy option, try not to sneak away when your child is distracted
This applies especially if your child has been showing signs of separation anxiety. Your child needs to learn that you will come back and suddenly disappearing sends the opposite signal. They don’t know where you have gone, and whether you will return.
7. A shorter transition period could be beneficial if your child is really unsettled
You may want to start with 30 minutes, then 1 to 2 hours building up to a half or full day in the nursery. Take it slowly and step by step.
8. Encourage Practitioner involvement
It is important to have dedicated staff who provide a calm and caring environment that aids in building positive attachments with the children in their new setting. In some cases, calm music may be played and breathing techniques implemented as part of the daily routine. Practitioners will provide constant reassurance to your child. They may sometimes use a visual timetable to help your child to understand the daily routine, including when to expect their carer to return. Sometimes children respond negatively to contact by touch, in these cases practitioners will use distraction techniques. This may be by engaging in stimulating and inviting activities with other children to spark curiosity, that can initially help your child settle, then work on reassurance once calm. Lastly, the staff must always keep you updated on your child’s wellbeing, you should be welcome to call or message as often as you need to.
If you need any additional support, please feel free to contact The Little Dreamers Nursery.