New shoes, smart uniform and a quick breakfast, then out of the door, straight to the nursery. But is it really that easy? The first day in a new place comes with a lot of excitement but also with a bit of shyness. Even as adults we tend to worry about new beginnings: “Am I going to make a good first impression? Am I going to handle the new situation?”
Parents tend to worry a lot about new beginnings for their children, and rightfully so, but sometimes this interferes with their child’s best interest. Absorbing the emotions around, children are very sensitive to adults, so no wonder that a child becomes fearful when the parent is fearful.
Why do children cry on their first day of nursery?
Because they feel anxious, shy , and they didn’t learn how to deal with these emotions yet. Sometimes it’s overwhelming because they don’t know how to verbalize these feelings, they don’t know how to say: “I feel nervous”, “I feel a bit shy”, so they cry instead.
For some children crying is a tool they use, knowing that when they cry, things change according to their wishes. If this mechanism is in place (cries that he wants a toy, so you buy it, cries that he wants to go somewhere and you go) then he’ll cry to get him back home. The worst thing you can do is to take your child back home because he’s crying! Children need learn how to deal with frustration, but you have to make sure you explain why certain things happen, the mechanism that stands behind decisions, not simply: “Because I said so!”
- The most important thing is to talk to the child and have conversations about the nursery and what happens there. It’s very useful to visit the nursery before the first day and to meet the teacher if this is possible.
- Explain that all the children go to the nursery as all parents go to work. Emphasize the nice times that he’s going to spend there: making new friends, playing with new toys, learning new things.
- On the day, try to be relaxed.
- Don’t spend too much time saying “goodbye”. Give your child a kiss; remind him the time you’ll pick him up.
- Do not cry! Children are impressionable and he’s going to get into the same emotional state.
There are a lot of parent who feel guilty leaving their child in the nursery, but you should remember that you left him with professionals, with his peers, a lot of toys and activities, which translate into learning opportunities.
I have seen cases of heartbreaking first days: children trying to stop their mum from leaving by hugging her or pulling her hair, trying to kick the teacher who held him in her arms, crying for “mummy”, but this only lasts for a few minutes. Children are remarkable in the way they can change mood from minute to minute.
These difficult goodbyes are not ruining their day (even though it’s almost certain it’s going to leave mum in a very bad mood). They get distracted by what’s going on around them, they want to participate in the activities, they interact with other children (it’s super cute to hear a little 3 year old comforting another 3 year old, explaining that mummy is going to come later and that there’s no reason to cry).
Even though some beginnings are a bit difficult, the nursery is soon going to become one of you child’s favorite places. Some children might settle in immediately, some in a few days but for some it’s going to take weeks. Each child is unique and we have to respect that! All the children that I worked with (even the ones described earlier) became happy, confident children, greeting me in the morning with a smile. You shouldn’t wait for the first day of nursery with apprehension!