Expert / 9 July, 2019 / Dr Maryhan Baker

5 Tips for Settling Your Child Into Nursery

Is there a way to help our kids settle into nursery? Mine is 3 and starts school nursery (mornings only) in September. Is there anything I could do to help him?

For me, the key to success when it comes to your child starting anything new, be it nursery, school, or a new activity is to make the drop off as stress free as possible.

Nothing pulls at our heartstrings more than an unhappy child who needs to be peeled off us to go into nursery, school, or an activity. Whilst separation anxiety is a normal part of children’s development, focusing on these five simple techniques will ensure your child is fully equipped to overcome any anxieties they may have and giving them the best possible chance of settling in.

Take your own angst out of the equation

You cannot expect your child to be confident saying good-bye to you if you are harbouring any sort of guilt and angst yourself. So it is important to remind yourself that your child’s separation anxiety is a normal part of their development. It does not reflect poor parenting and will not cause any psychological harm to them in the future. With your own angst in check you can ensure your good-byes are short and sweet, with no unnecessary lingering, which will make the process of saying good-bye much kinder to your child.

Problem solve your own good-bye routine

Find a neutral time to discuss how you might say goodbye to each other when you take them to nursery or school. You might start the conversation by saying “Starting something new and saying goodbye to mummy might make you feel sad, even though I’ll be back to collect you straight after your snack”. Then encourage your child to discuss possible solutions to the problem with you, so you can create your own unique ‘good-bye routine’.

If your child finds it hard to get started give them some options “would you prefer me to put your bags on the peg and then kiss you goodbye, or should I say goodbye outside the cloakroom?”


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Practice makes perfect

Once you have set up your good-bye routine it is always helpful to practice at home. It is fun to start by asking your child to play ‘mummy’ and you can be them. You can then role-play arriving at school and following your agreed routine before swapping over and asking your child to try the same.

This gives you a chance to ‘iron-out’ any crinkles in the routine and reinforce it with your child, so it seems much less daunting when they have to do it for real.

Consistency is key

Make it easier for your child to carry out your new good-bye routine by applying the routine consistently each and every day. Go through each step of the routine in the same way, say good-bye at the same spot, use the same phrases, and keep the parting short and sweet.

Your child will gain a great sense of security from this new routine and over time their confidence will grow enabling them to go into nursery or school much more independently.

Praise their efforts

Through out this process always acknowledge how your child feels whilst telling them you have every confidence in their ability to see the routine through. Praise every small step towards the end goal, so your child knows you aware of how hard they are trying.

You might say something along these lines “I noticed how difficult you found it to say goodbye to me this morning, but I am so proud you took a deep breath and waved goodbye. You showed me how hard you have been working on saying goodbye to me without crying.”

By praising all your child’s efforts rather than focusing on the final outcome, you will boost their confidence and build up their self-belief.\

For more in-depth help and advice, contact Dr Maryhan via her website or join Dr Maryhan’s Raising Confident Kids Facebook group for more tips and advice on child behaviour. 

The How Not to Screw Up Your Kids membership is all about striving to be the best parent we can be. It’s a community of like-minded parents who are being honest about their parenting journey. It’s about practical advice to manage those day-to-day ups and downs as well as guidance on how best to tackle up and coming changes. So, you feel in control, rather than on the back foot.
How Not to Screw Up Your Kids Membership is for you if:

  • You have a child who is struggling with low confidence and / or anxiety
  • You are prepared to talk openly and honestly about the difficulties your family are facing
  • You understand there is no ‘quick fix’. You want to see lasting changes and you know this may take time.
  • You are prepared to do the work, and recognise it won’t always be easy
  • You want to be part of a community which supports each other through the highs and the lows
  • You want to feel part of a community of like-minded people
  • You are open to trying things which might push you out of your comfort zone

If you’d like to learn the practical tools and strategies that will work for your unique family set-up, whatever stage your children are at, you can use this link.


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