When it’s time for little ones to return to nursery or school, anxiety can be present for both them and their parents. We talk to Sijyl Ghais, centre director of Blossom Village, for her top 10 tips that may help ease any stress.
1. Be positive.
Children pick up on emotions of their parents very easily. If you are positive, excited and relaxed your child will be to! Remind your children that they have new friends waiting for them at school and create playgroups after school with their friends so they have even more to look forward to the next day.
2. Start a back-to-school routine well before the day you actually return.
Many children transition into a sleep-in and stay-up-late schedule, making the return to nursery/school and having to get up earlier a greater challenge. Adjust your child’s sleep cycle and morning routine to avoid the first day of school morning sleepies (and possible grumpies!). Children need at least 10 to 13 hours of sleep so be sure they get enough rest before their big first day.
3. Schedule quality time with your child and talk about the return to nursery/school.
Talk to your child about what their school day might be like so they have a clear understanding of what to expect - such as what time school begins and ends, who their teacher will be, who will pick them up etc. The more your child knows about the upcoming experience, the less nervous or upset they may be as the big day approaches.
4. Visit the nursery/school with your child ahead of time.
Many nurseries and schools have opportunities to meet the teacher prior to the start of term. If possible, be sure to attend as it can help relieve first day jitters for the whole family. If no event is planned, schedule a visit ahead of time so your child can explore the building and see their classroom.
5. Let your child have some control in the return to school planning.
Whether it is selecting a new water bottle or picking an outfit for the first day, let your child feel in control of decisions being made about school. Even if it’s not your personal first choice, it’s okay if your child picks something that you would not have!
6. Don’t linger on the first day.
Most little ones will want you to stay with them in the classroom on the first day back (and maybe the first week), but you can cause additional stress or nervousness if you hover. Children need to know that it’s okay to be without you while they are at school; reassure them when you will be back using terms they can comprehend such as after snack, after lunch, after they nap etc. Even if your child cries, most will quickly adjust and even grow to enjoy their first day of school. After you take them to their classroom, give them a hug and words of support and then leave. Your job is done for the day. Let the teacher begin hers! If the nursery has CCTV cameras you can watch the screen to see how your child is doing without disturbing the other children by being in the classroom.
7. Communication is key.
• Give your child’s teacher information about your little one’s preferences, dislikes, fears and home routine. Of course teachers will get to know your child’s needs and preferences too the t but in the beginning it’s important to give them as much information as you can to ease the transition from home to nursery.
• If you do not speak English at home, let the teacher know important words in your child’s vocabulary so they are comfortable communicating with the teacher.
• If your child has an allergy, make sure the nursery is aware of this and has a strict policy in place to prevent a dangerous allergic reaction.
• Let the teacher know if your child has any fears or concerns. For example, if they are afraid of water, teachers will take extra care during water play or swimming to make the child feel comfortable and eventually build their confidence enough to overcome their fear.
• Basic information about your home routine is very helpful for teachers and makes your child feel more comfortable. Can you child eat on their own? Do they use the toilet at home? Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or blanket? Some teachers find that for the first week a child is at nursery, it helps them feel safe if they have something from home. This can be a stuffed animal, special blanket or even pictures of mommy and daddy. As children get more comfortable they will not need to bring it anymore, but it can be a big help in the beginning.
8. Dress your child for play.
Although teachers try their best to make sure children’s paint stays on the paper and food goes into their mouths, spills happen so make sure the clothes your child is wearing can withstand spills once in a while. Leave a few changes of clothes at nursery just in case.
9. Label everything.
Make sure clothes, bottles, toys, blankets, hats and favourite toys brought to nursery are labelled with your child’s name. Most parents know the horror of losing their child’s favorite toy and labeling it can be a simple way to avoid this.
Bonus tip - get a duplicate and keep it at home just case!
10. The most important tip of all…trust the teacher!
She knows what she is doing and has lots of tricks up her sleeves to make nursery a comfortable, fun and memorable time for your child. Plus, children will pick up on your energy so if you are trusting and enthusiastic your child will be too!
Sijyl is the centre director at the Blossom Village. She has been working in the Education sector for over a decade and has worked very closely with children of all age groups and all nationalities. Sijyl also helped her family to set up of a free school for underprivileged children in her home country.
Blossom Village, Villa No.43, Al Ragay Street, Umm Suqeim 1. www.theblossomnursery.com (04 348 6275). Other branches in Umm Al Sheif, Academic City and Downtown