What to consider when sending a child to nursery, and how to facilitate adaptation. Own experience and opinion of the family psychologist.

The other day, during the act of handover to the nursery, my child sat, dangling his legs, gnawing an apple and was watching with interest as other children roared “iwantmom”.

This is our second month of nursery, about half of which was missed due to illnesses. And this is rather the norm: nursery is stress for a child, means weakened immunity and ease of picking up viruses. And a few days ago my child was in the ranks of “iwantmomers”. Having experience of successful and unsuccessful adaptation, I’d like to share some important points.

I had a bad experience with one of the best private nurseries in Lviv. Circumstances, quarantine, lack / negligence of staff, sensitivity of the child, lack of personal deadline, and most of all – mother’s doubts – that’s what failed our adaptation.

This time the circumstances were that I didn’t have much choice with the kindergarten, or with the time, or with the fact itself – to send the child to kindergarten or not, because I had to free up time and space for study. So, we had to adjust, take past mistakes into account and just do it. Just do it is one of the best methods I have ever used. And yet you can do it in different ways.

The most important moments of adaptation

The first thing a child will react to is the mother’s inner doubts. It doesn’t matter what mom says if her fear is in the air. My child goes to nursery because I need time and space for mental recovery, personal life, study, work, your option. Just because he goes to nursery doesn’t mean I love him less, am a bad mom, a lazy woman, etc., it’s just what it is: my child goes to the nursery.

Will it be better there for him? No. Not better, not worse. It will be just different, and new as you know may be scary. When we talk about adaptation, we mean not only the child: parents also adapt, everyone who’s involved. But the mother usually takes the most, especially if the burden (responsibility, decisions, emotional fluctuations of their own and the child) of such changes lies on her.

The nursery should be minimized first of all in the head.

It is important for a child to find support among adults at a time when parents are not around. Therefore, first of all, it’s important to make an effort to establish a relationship with the educator. Public nursery or private, beautiful or dilapidated – it doesn’t matter comparatively to this stable contact with an adult.

In my experience, some resemblance to the immediate caregiver (such as a soft-spoken or strict mother) and a sense of trust / attitude of the caregiver to the educator plays a role.

You don’t have to make that nursery a big deal. We don’t explain for two hours why we go to visit a friend or to the store. The more conversations, the more unusual it is, the more unusual, the more suspicious. Why is my mother trying so hard to explain that I will be fine there, what can go wrong there with me ?!

Son, today we will go to the nursery, where children have fun, and educators make sure that they are happy – I think this is the maximum number of necessary explanations. If the child doesn’t ask any clarifying questions, the topic can be closed. You should also not ask how did their day go and whether they want to go to nursery again. On the way to nursery it is a good idea to talk about something else. To say goodbye and greet again hello with a calm smile.

If possible, it’s better to prolong the adaptation a bit, something like this: two days the mother comes with the child for an hour and a half, on the third day tells the child that she would leave for 15 minutes to talk on the phone / to the store, the child should see that the mother returned as promised. The next day leave them for 30 minutes (always with a warning), the next day for an hour and a half. A small child is poorly oriented in time, so it is better to explain after what event the mother will come, for example, after lunch. For a few days take them home before the day sleep, then try to leave them to sleep and pick up immediately after, then after lunch, and so on. If it is possible not to send the child to nursery every day, many parents take a “break” in the middle of the week, on Wednesday. The calmer the adaptation, the less likely it is that the child will be stressed and ill.

The nursery is not a world event, it’s just a nursery. Like fear of being left without a mother is just a fear. We do what we can – we say that we leave them under the care of the nanny, we will come back, we love, we love, bye-bye. It’s really not good idea to delay saying goodbye – the child sees that he is getting pity for some reason, so the nursery is not ok, and he or she begins to perceive the nursery as a leprosarium. Often it is the mother who interferes with the normal adaptation, because children feel everything.

I have heard the opinion of psychologists that adaptation in nursery actually lasts three months, it really seem to be the truth and resonates with those three months after the childbirth, which are called the fourth trimester.

Children’s fears

I often hear from both parents and caregivers that the child is manipulating. Children are not capable of manipulation physically, till they are about 6-7 years old, they just try all the methods to get what they need, and that’s okay. Imagine a baby after nine months in the womb, being inside a mother suddenly appearing outside. Of course, this is a great stress of changing the environment. The same happens when adapting to nursery. The child shouts that he or she doesn’t want to go to nursery, but wants their mother, and when their mother leaves, they immediately calm down, not because they are manipulating, at first they are scared and it feels unusual without their mother, and then their attention quickly switches to something else. This is how toddlers work.

Let’s take a closer look at the stresses of nursery: no mother, unfamiliar environment, nothing at all familiar, very noisy, many strangers, new food, toilet is not like at home, adults behave as if they have the right to tell the child what to do. These are all stressors. If your baby is scared, it’s important to find out what exactly strresses them out.

It was very difficult for me not to demand the answers from the child, about what scares him, and I was happy when in the first week of adaptation he came to me and told me that he was scared, because there is a lot of new things. I said then that it’s normal, when it’s scary, I was also afraid to go to school, because it was something new to me, but I’ve tried and now I’m happy. And he also said that when he was little, he was afraid of a toy shark, and then he grew up and stopped being afraid of it.

It’s better not to compare children with others, as they say, here, all children are behaving, only you are crying, it’s very cruel, it’s better to name feelings and to talk about their normality, to embrace and kiss. It’s okay not to want to go to nursery, to want mom, to be a little scared, sad and bored, I’ll see you soon, in the afternoon I’ll definitely pick you up, never leave you, see you soon, bye.

Remember that the greatest fear of a child is to be abandoned. I will never give you to anyone, I love you, because you are the most valuable thing I have and I really need you.

I see the main problem of nurseries in noise and fast switching of activities. It’s like that almost everywhere, but it’s great that people are beginning to understand that the most important thing for a child in preschool is free play. Free play, minimum schedule to delineate boundaries and maximum air.

The opinion of a psychologist
Ana Contarez,
child and family psychologist,

works in the children’s club “LITO”

photo by Gabe Pierce

Does the child go through the stages of denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance, getting into nursery?

Going through these stages of accepting the inevitable, life changes, is not mandatory for everyone, there may not be in such an order, or some of the stages may be missed. In children, it’s just as individual and depends on the personality traits of the child and, of course, on his age. In addition, it’s important how parents react and how they feel when a child goes to nursery.

Clearly it’s desirable to give a child to nursery when he is ready for it, but it often happens that parents have to go to work and simply have no choice. Is there any way to mitigate such forced adaptation?

When there is no choice, the first rule to remember is that calm parents mean calm children. For the period of adaptation, try to pay more attention to the child, but do not overwork, it is better to do something pleasant and familiar together. Adhere to the regime of day and rest.

What changes in the child’s behavior are alarming bells (not the norm during adaptation)?

“Alarm bells” are a noticeable change in a child’s habitual behavior. For example, a child becomes more withdrawn, or aggressive, capricious. And you should pay special attention if these changes last a long time. For example, it happens that even if a child is quite independent, obedient, “comfortable”, not aggressive, does not cry, but is closed in nursery, doesn’t join games with peers, often gets sick.

During the period of adaptation, changes in behavior will be, but not huge, and should disappear if this period is successful. Therefore, it is important to monitor and control the child’s well-being. About cases when sleep is disturbed, problems with the toilet begin or the child refuses to eat or go to the toilet in nursery at all, we can already say that it is necessary to urgently resolve the situation.

Can frequent illnesses be psychosomatic during adaptation? Is there anything you can do about it?

There may be psychosomatic illnesses, a calm reaction to the illness, a positive attitude of the parents, of course not to quarrel with the child, not to create an anxious emotional background can help. The child will get sick more often during the period of adaptation in nursery in any case, so the main thing is to rest and not overwork emotionally and physically at this time.

How to talk to caregivers about unacceptable methods about the child, so as not to cause the child even more anger?

This question is very interesting). The first thing I can say is that we need to speak correctly. If you have seen for yourself or your child has told you about methods of parenting that are unacceptable to you, it is generally normal to talk politely about it with the caregiver in person. When this does not help, you should approach the manager. All people may be imperfect and make mistakes, but nurseries are mostly staffed by professionals, so do not be afraid, you know your child better and educators will be happy to work with you. This, of course, we are talking about situations that are embedded in the norms of behavior of a child of a certain age. But in a situation where your appeal may provoke even more anger, we can already talk about the outright unprofessionalism of employees.

Is it appropriate to emphasize the child’s adulthood in the adaptation?

It is worth emphasizing the child’s adulthood during adaptation when we do it in a positive and only positive tone. We show the significance of its new status.

How should I react to the hysteria that is already happening in the nursery (I do not want to go to nursery, mom do not go)?

First of all, you need to understand that tantrums in nursery are very likely to be, this is a normal reaction for children 2-3 years. But under no circumstances should a child be quarreled with and punished for tears in a divorce. It is better to hug, kiss, say again that you love and promise to pick up at a certain time. When giving a child to a caregiver, try to stay calm, children feel your emotional state very well. Do not delay the farewell: change clothes, kiss, promise to pick up and leave quickly. Children as young as 2-3 often cry, but when their mother leaves, they are usually distracted by toys quite quickly.

What to do if a child refuses to eat or go to the toilet in nursery?

We have already touched on this topic a little earlier, now we will consider in more detail. The child refuses to eat in nursery, what do we mean? First of all, it is necessary to find out the reason: whether the child is healthy, whether he eats little at home, or maybe not hungry, there are also children who eat very fastidiously. In this case, you can either fix the problem (for example, a stuffy nose), or wait until he is hungry, or the child will eat what is usual for him and as much as necessary. We need to talk about all this with educators. It may be that educators, for better reasons, demand that the child finish everything, but she does not need it.

When a child refuses to go to the toilet, you should also first find out what worries them: is it not a pot / toilet like at home, or maybe there is shyness or fear. For example, if the educator takes the children to the toilet at the same time, and reacts dissatisfied when the child wants another time. We also need to talk about this with the educator. And always with the child – to teach how to be alone in the toilet – to turn away, go to a time when no one is there, etc., also to teach that the child has the right and should go to the toilet when he wants, not tolerate. can scare something, such as a spider in the toilet. When these problems are ruled out, then the refusal of food and / or toilet may be difficult to adapt, conflict with caregivers or children, an attempt to attract attention. It is already more difficult to solve the problem here.


9:00, a child runs to the nursery with a samurai cry “this is MY nursery !!!”. (I rehearsed that I run to the nursery to eat his cheesecakes)

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