Integration and Adaptation
Starting at Nursery School marks the beginning of a new phase, not only in the life of the child but also for the whole family.
A new reality in which the child leaves the close-knit and very much protected family environment and takes his first steps in a miniature society as is a Nursery School.
This new experience raises a multitude of questions and strong emotions. The settling-in period needs to be smooth in order to successfully adapt to these new circumstances, however it is often overlooked, and this also applies to parents who undergo a corresponding process of adjustment.
This adjustment therefore brings to the fore a set of reactions to the child leaving the home environment and going to Nursery School, which each family member experiences in a different way.
For this reason, the reactions vary and while, for example, some children fit very easily into a new environment, others find it more difficult in a variety of ways.
It is therefore useful to know some things that facilitate a smooth transition:
THE PREPARATION PHASE
In order to achieve the best possible adjustment, it is of utmost importance to prepare the child for the change to be made in his life. It is very often that the difficulties in adjustment vary from improper or inadequate preparation of the child for the transition to Nursery School. Therefore please note these useful tips for being well prepared:
- It is very important that the parents first psychologically prepare themselves and accept the new reality in order to be able to prepare the child. At this level it helps a lot to talk to each other and to share thoughts and feelings with the emphasis on being happy that their child is growing up. If you feel that it is emotionally very difficult to deal with the impending change, it might be helpful to consult a specialist.
- It is extremely important that the child has been prepared and has been informed about starting nursery school.
- This change should be discussed in a positive way, stressing the many beautiful things that will be gained through this new experience, such as learning amazing things, new games, new friendships and so on.
- It is very useful to familiarize the child beforehand by visiting the nursery school, and to emphasize the good things it will begin to experience there.
- Parents can use the suggestive power of games or storytelling to familiarize the child with the new reality eg role playing in order to represent a family where the parents leave for work and the children go to school, or to read stories with relevant themes.
- When planning for the arrival of a new baby in the family, it is advisable to start the child at the Nursery School 1-2 months before the birth so its leaving home will not be connected to the arrival of the new sibling.
THE SETTLING-IN PERIOD
- The way parents react emotionally is crucial for the child’s adjustment to Nursery School. It has been proven that if parents show their own strong emotions such as fear, doubt or hesitation, the child will find it more difficult to integrate and adapt to Nursery School life.
- Waking 15-30 minutes early is particularly beneficial since it ensures the possibility of closeness and contact before leaving and prevents starting the morning stressed and being pressed for time.
- It also helps when parents are firm and confident so that the transition of the child in Nursery School becomes something very good and non-negotiable.
- It is better for parents to say goodbye in a positive and confident way and leave the nursery without bargaining or negotiation of their time because it just prolongs the adjustment period.
- It is very helpful for parents to explain to the child without apologies the procedure to be followed, namely that they will leave to go to work (even if the mother remains at home) and that they will return later to pick the child up.
- It is also good to express pride and joy when parents collect the child from Nursery School instead of voicing distress or concern whether the child managed to fend for himself in their absence.
- Bringing a favorite toy to school for company often works very well.
- Even if all these suggestions are put into use, it is very likely that the child will still be upset and react to being separated from his parents and by extension have some difficulties adjusting to his new environment. These difficulties are no need for panic because they are perfectly natural and to be expected, being a healthy reaction to separation anxiety.
- Stopping attending the nursery school because of the difficulty in settling in simply postpones the difficulties until later, when they usually return more intensely as the child often cannot trust that he can grow up and become independent, meaning he is emotionally underdeveloped for his age.
- Sometimes after a weekend, a vacation period or an illness when the child was kept at home, he may again refuse to go to Nursery School, even if this had been eliminated. There is no need to worry as this is a perfectly normal reaction, and the child should return to the stability and reassurance of the daily routine.
The most important thing for a parent to know is that a child’s entrance to Nursery School when the time comes is all about growing up, developing and taking the first step towards independence; it is a life lesson, as throughout his life the child will be called on time and time again to handle such separations and adjustments and so must be able to stand on his own two feet.
As healthy and necessary it is for the child to need close family protection and care in the early stages, it is equally healthy and necessary to be lead with confidence and certainty to the subsequent phases of independence.
Foremost in our minds should be the pride and joy that a knowledgeable and self-aware child is being raised, and that this always involves some difficult emotions.