Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Nursery Diaries: When Your Child Struggles To Settle In.

Back in September, along with millions of other 3 year olds, Tyne started nursery for the first time.

Actually, this isn't strictly true, you may recall that he had actually started back in March but it didn't go well and we were not happy with the nursery setting we'd we decided to cut our losses and try again in September.

And that's what we did.

And on his first day, it was awful.

Every bit as awful as I had feared it would be - he cried, he screamed, he held on to me for dear life, he begged me not to leave, and in the end he had to be physically pulled off me by a member of staff as I was ushered out of the door by another.

I stood in the hall, anxiously waiting and listening, until I heard his sobs die down...and then I left, and fell to pieces in the car.

Just like millions of other mums did on that day.

When I returned a couple of hours later to collect him, I was hopeful that he would come bouncing out telling me how fun it was...and he did.

So, the next time, I hoped it might be a little bit easier. Because that's what's supposed to happen isnt it.

Only it wasn't.

Infact it seemed to get worse every time.

But I was ok with it...I knew it was all so new to him, that he just needed time to settle in, that it was just "one of those things"..and I saw a fair few other mums on Instagram and Facebook talking about how their children were struggling to settle in too, talking about their fears and thoughts of pulling them out.

So I knew I wasn't alone, I knew that Tyne wasn't the only one finding it hard.

But time went on...those posts became fewer and fewer.

I saw each and every one  of those mums who had been in the same boat as me gradually post about how they had finally cracked their little one was finally settled, how they finally went in to nursery with a smile on their faces every day or at least settled down very quickly when they arrived...suddenly I was in that boat all by myself.

Our journey only seemed to be getting tougher with time.

Every evening before bed, Tyne would cry and ask me "I don't have to go to nursery tomorrow, do I Mummy?"

and when I said "yes Darling, tomorrow is a nursery day" - the tears would come. And so would the screams, the near hyperventilation, the panic and the fear.

It didn't feel like just a temper tantrum or a case of wanting his own way, it felt like more than felt like real actual PANIC...the panic I'm so very familiar with myself, that I would never wish on my worst enemy...let alone my son.

And that absolutely broke me.

Each morning, we would have more of the same...screaming, crying, fear, trying to run away, trying to escape...sheer desperation to just avoid having to go to nursery.

For the whole duration of the 10 minute drive there he would cry, hyperventilate, scream, beg...

He would repeat all of the phrases that filled me with so much emotion, over and over again.

 "Mummy PLEASE don't make me go in"...

"But I'll be all alone"

"Nobody will play with me, I feel lonely"

Phrases that brought up so many horrible memories for me of my own school days and my own desperation to avoid it, memories of wondering WHY my parents were forcing me to go somewhere that made me so miserable, memories of wishing they would stop and LISTEN to me and not make me go back to that dreadful place.

I knew that this was a different situation, I knew he hadn't even had chance to have any bad experiences there yet...but still, the memories were there.

In the end I had to stop going along for the drop off each day, it was making me visibly upset and I didn't want that to make things harder for Jon started doing them alone, but it didn't make anything easier...Jon returned every day to tell me how dreadful it had been, how he had screamed and begged and tried to run away.

No matter what we tried, no matter what we said - nothing seemed to help.

We reasoned with him, we explained why it was good for him, we talked about all of the fun things he could do, we talked about making friends, we talked about days out, we even tried bribery - "If you just go in to nursery today, if you just try it, I'll take you to choose a new toy afterwards - anything you want!" - In utter desperation, we tried it all.

Nothing helped...not even a little bit.

I really can't explain how awful it is to feel that your child is the ONLY one who is still struggling to settle in to nursery, to feel like every other child is capable of doing it but only your child can't, to feel that it MUST be something that you're doing wrong...that you've molly coddled them too much, that you've somehow made them clingy, that you're not trying hard enough to help them or you're not trying the right thing - whatever that may be.

People are full of advice in these situations - "Just stick with it", they tell you, "It will get easier".

But sometimes it doesn't.

And if your child was someone who settled in straight away or within a couple of weeks, I don't expect you to be able to understand the heartache and desperation you feel when you have to force them into something that they seem to hate so much, that makes them struggle for breath, that they're BEGGING you not to make them do...Just sticking with it feels like the hardest thing to do.

After weeks on end of dreadful nursery drop offs, I made an appointment to go in and speak with the staff about the problem.

They hadn't been aware of how bad it was because he settles quite quickly when he's there and seems to enjoy himself for most of the session - the dramatics are reserved only for us.

The staff were fantastic, and really made an effort to help him to settle in - they loaned us the Nursery Bear to take on holiday to Disneyland in the hopes that it would make Tyne excited to return and tell the class what the Bear had been up to on holiday, they suggested that we start using transitory items to make the link between home and nursery stronger -  encouraging Tyne to bring in items from home and to take home some things from nursery such as photos of the staff so that he could talk about them with us, to make them seem less foreign.

And they suggested that we take things SUPER slowly - that we reduce his sessions down to just 15 minutes a time, so that he learns that we always come back without having such a long wait for us.

We did this for a couple of weeks, and then we gradually increased the sessions in 15 minute increments - to half an hour, then 45 minutes, then an hour.

Until eventually he was doing his full afternoon sessions.

It was difficult to make that work logistically, it meant weeks of sitting in the car park to wait for his session to end as there was no time to go anywhere, weeks of cancelled work and missed appointments, but we had to do was the only way.

We're now a couple of weeks into his second term and we still have problems - he still cries most days going in to nursery and begs not to go, but he settles quickly when he's there and  ends up enjoying himself.

He's always so excited when we collect him - telling us everything he's done that day, showing us the paintings he's done for us and telling us who he's played with.

And the staff are fantastic with him - we know this nursery is the right one, they make such an effort to do fun things for the children - just last week they had a Fire Engine visit, this week they've cooked a Christmas Dinner from scratch and next week they're off on a Christmas day out to Dinosaur World - they really are a wonderful nursery and I know that going there will be fantastic for him in the long run.

But it doesn't make it any less difficult when your child is begging you every morning not to take him in. It doesn't make you feel any less guilty or responsible. And it doesn't help you to feel any less alone when it seems like all those millions of other children are coping just fine.

And so I wanted to share our struggles, just incase anybody else out there is still struggling too, just to let you know that not every child adapts quickly - even though your social media feed may tell you they do.

All you can do is keep trying, for as long as that feels like the right thing to do - take it at their pace, keep encouraging them, and hopefully in the end - they'll get there.

And hopefully we will too.

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