Ask The Expert: How can I make my child starting nursery as easy as possible for both of us?

An early years expert advises how to make the start trouble-free for both parents and children...

Parents often find it hard to leave their children when they first start at nursery

Q: MY ONE-year-old son will soon start nursery for the first time and I'm nervous about it, both because of the coronavirus risk and also because it's the first time I'll have left him. Have you got any tips to make it as easy as possible?

A: Anthony Ioannou, owner of Abacus Ark ( nurseries in London, says: "In a post-Covid world it's unlikely you'll be allowed to be in the room when your child settles. Trust the staff and more importantly, trust your child to begin to form attachments to people outside your immediate family.

"The presence of a parent can often prolong a child's time to settle. Allowing a parent in the room can often be more for the parent's benefit than the child. Trust your judgment on the nursery you've selected and allow staff to do their job.

"If you're concerned about your child contracting coronavirus in the nursery, look at how it's reducing the risk. Ask for the nursery's Covid-19 policies and procedures, and ask yourself whether this aligns to the level of risk you're willing to accept. What are they doing to keep the virus out of the nursery, to kill the virus if it gets in, and how are they monitoring whether what they are doing is effective?

"Visit the setting – even if your little one isn't shy, they may find it scary at first being around new people in a new place. It's a good idea to visit the nursery first and practise the journey to and from. Try and do this when the other children are arriving or being picked up so your child can see the happy faces.

"Read stories about starting nursery – there are many books that cover this topic, written specifically to tackle the challenges both you and your child may be faced with. Incorporate it into the bedtime story routine, and talk about the exciting things they'll do in your day-to-day conversations.

"Have a good chat with nursery staff prior to your child's start date so they understand a bit more about your child's needs, likes and dislikes, what foods they enjoy, nap times, anything that frightens them and how far through potty training they might be. The more information you give them, the better time your child will have.

"Follow the recommended settling in programme the nursery advises – allow the time for your child to bond with the teachers and trust them with little interference. This will make it easier once you leave them for whole sessions.

"Be strong when you say goodbye, and explain you'll be back to pick them up later. Try not to be drawn back by tears, which usually dry up as soon as you leave! Remember, children pick up on your cues, so keep smiling (even if your heart is breaking) and don't hang around once you've said goodbye. You'll both soon get very used to the new routine."

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