Preparing your child for their return to nursery – and a new normal
- Mums Tips
- Published on Wednesday, 02 September 2020 22:16
- Last Updated on 02 September 2020
- 0 Comments
Being a parent is great fun but also full of challenges and anxieties. The rise of social media and easy access to everyone’s opinion cannot help as it’s difficult to extract fact from opinion. Never was this more alive than during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. It was compounded by the Government guidance continually changing as they discovered new information.
We have about two million families in England with children aged under five, and nearly 87% of them use some form of formal childcare. What did they say about their lockdown. It is a mixed picture. Some families loved the experience of lockdown and had a ball, others didn’t do so well. For some parents’ lockdown started fine but, as the weeks ran into months, pressure soon mounted and they began to burnout. Parents working from home with small children found it very stressful and said they were exhausted and used the “screen” as a babysitter more than normally to try and get some work done. There were tussles as to the parent roster? Who did more of the childcare? Whose job could be done at night? Whose Zoom call was more pressing? Double demands if you were a single parent.
Interestingly, the Early Years Alliance conducted a survey with over 2,000 parents and reported:
- 49% of respondents said the Government hasn’t done enough to support parents to access the childcare they need during the pandemic.
- A third (34%) say difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown has had a negative impact on their work life, rising to nearly half (48%) of parents living in the most deprived local authority areas.
- Over a quarter (27%) said difficulties accessing childcare since the easing of lockdown has had a negative impact on their mental health, rising to over a third (36%) of parents living in the most deprived local authorities’ areas.
- 1 in 10 (10%) have not been able to access formal childcare at all since the easing of lockdown despite wanting to do so.
Many parents were surprised by how much their children missed their friends. While they engaged in home learning activities and Zoom play dates, it did not satisfy their children’s need to be with their friends.
Some parents were so terrified they did not leave their homes and their children demonstrated high levels of separation anxiety as a result. People think that children who find it difficult to part from their parent are simply reflecting a very close relationship. It’s not! Children who have strong and secure relationships with parents can separate confidently.
“He just ran off and played”
“She didn’t seem to notice as I tried to say goodbye”
“They didn’t mind going in and left me at the door feeling a bit bereft”.
In general, pat yourself on the back, you have done a great job.
So, now September looms, furlough will soon stop and it’s crunch time for employers and employees. The economic situation and rising unemployment is making the choice for some families but for others it is safely returning to work and nursery.
The guidance from the Department of Education (DfE) seems sensible and Early Years practitioners across the country are all following it (or at least they should be). They want to prioritise younger children returning to nursery because there is moderately high scientific confidence in evidence suggesting younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus; and secondly because evidence shows the particularly detrimental impact which time spent out of education can have upon them.
Going back to nursery is an issue of trust so we must trust each other. For example, if you feel unwell will you tell us and self-isolate so we can test and trace?
Will nurseries guarantee to consistently apply all the hygiene protective tactics such as
- Test and trace at any hint of symptoms?
- Ensure that everyone cleans their hands for 20 seconds with soap more often than usual, including when they arrive, when they return from breaks, and before and after eating?
- Wear a face covering as advised and apply safe distancing rules?
- Agree to no longer enter the nursery and one parent picks up and drops off your child?
- Promote the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach, to ensure good respiratory hygiene?
- Enhance cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces more often?
- Minimise contact between individuals?
- Apply the safer travel guidance for passengers if you use public transport to attend nursery?
But here are the things to remember. Children adapt quickly and are remarkably resilient once they feel loved and safe. I was constantly delighted by the children’s joyful responses to the most extraordinary circumstances during lockdown. Nursery staff understand the importance of physical interaction for children’s emotional wellbeing so the children will be hugged and cuddled.
Prepare your child to go back to nursery as only you know how. A test of your success will be whether your child agrees to leave their comfort toys at home. They are discouraged because they may carry the virus. If Babby remains essential, you might need to buy two, one for nursery and one for home.
Remind your child about their friends at nursery and encourage them to talk about the games they used to play. Practice the nursery routine such as mealtimes, playing outside, helping their friends, taking turns and using the bathroom to wash their hands.
Reassure yourself by ringing the key person and having a chat about your child’s new interests and their development since lockdown. We had loads of photos and videos from parents showing us their child walking or talking or climbing or singing! Great staff love the children and are genuinely delighted to see them developing.
Remember, the nursery is just as keen as you to welcome your children back. We believe in the importance of the learning experience and will do everything possible to make sure the children are safe, have fun and continue their nursery education.
June O’Sullivan is an Early Years consultant, speaker and author. Chief Executive at The London Early Years Foundation – the UK’s largest childcare Social Enterprise.