Settling in

Take your time

The transition between family and nursery school is a task for everybody involved: parents, educators and child. Clear arrangements and reliability are important and helpful.
Each child reacts differently to this unfamiliar situation. One child needs more time, while another child will need less time, to feel comfortable in a new surrounding with, at this time, unknown kids and adults. That is why you need to be prepared that it is up to your child how long you will need to accompany him/her to the nursery school. Be prepared that it might take about a month. If it is possible, the child should be accompanied by the same person every day in the beginning.

Building a relationship / building trust

For your child, you as parents, mother or father are the most important reference persons. An important aspect of settling in is building a sustainable relationship to the educators and/or assistents. During the first couple of days, your presence will help your child to feel secure enough to get to know the new reference person, to experience him/her, to hear him/her and to really “recognize” him/her. In the beginning the educator/assistent is a total stranger to your child, but after a successful settling-in phase this person will become a confidant for your son / your daughter. They will become a companion in an important phase in the life of your child.

“Bye bye”, “so long” and “hello”:

practicing attempts at separation

The settling-in phase does not start on the first day in the nursery school. A good preparation starts a few weeks earlier. For instance: your child should experience a few “successful” separation-situations prior to the settling-in phase. An afternoon at grandma’s, an hour alone with a babysitter, a friend that watches your child for a few hours… all these experiences will help your child in the settling-in phase in the nursery school. If your child has never experienced a separation from you, or if your child has experienced negative separations, it might be necessary to expand the settling-in phase.

Kids are allowed to cry

A separation from the beloved mother or the beloved father hurts. When you leave the room for the very first time during the settling-in phase, your child might cry or scream. This is, given the situation and the huge step of development that your child will take, absolutely normal and okay. It is important that your child can be comforted and distracted by the educators or assistents in a short period of time and that your child starts playing shortly after. This sorrow that your child will experience will touch you. That is why you have to trust the nursery school, along with the educators and assistents.

How can trust be built? The parents interview sheet

The first step is the initial interview with the responsible educator/assistent. Guided by our “parents interview sheet” our educator/assistent will talk to you about your child’s habits, your child’s favorite activities and your child’s steps of development, but also about your open questions. These details will help us getting to know your child and will be kept strictly confidential.
You can also look at picture books that deal with the nursery school as a topic, you can take a walk to the nursery school, you can invite other kids that will go to the same nursery school. These kind of activities are a smooth way to introduce your child to the nursery school.

Settling in step-by-step

We want to have enough time for every new child. That is why we offer different settling-in dates. That means that you will talk to your educator/assistent and set a date for your first visit. This date can be in August, in the first few days of the new year, or even as late as mid-September. We will try to find the perfect date for you, regarding your timetable, but you should visit the nursery school repeatedly after the first day. It is not recommended that you plan a vacation in the week after the first visit. Keep in mind that the settling-in phase might take a month. It is also recommended that you do not work during that month, or you should ask a grandmother, grandfather or another reference person to take that time to help your child in the settling-in phase.

Why are separation attempts important?

Separation situations and transitions will be “stored and saved”. These experiences will be revisited in every new transition or separation and bad memories might catch up with the child for example on the first day of school. Parting for a child means: I leave you. An 18-month-old child does not understand phrases like: “I will be back in five minutes”. “Later”, “soon”, “in five minutes” and so forth will not be understood by the child and cannot be placed cognitively. Things like
that have to be experienced. The person of reference leaves and returns after a short period of time to take him/her home. This period of time will be five minutes at first and will then increase to 30 minutes, an hour and a half and then an entire morning after two weeks of settling-in. The child has time to get used to the separation, the pain, the picking-up, the joy and so forth. The child gets used to it, can experience it and can use these experiences in the future.

The first three days: Being there for your child!

Your presence in the first couple of days is absolutely necessary: only you or a familiar reference person can help your child by being there in the settling-in phase. In the first three days you will visit the nursery school for about an hour. During that period of time you should stay with your child. Do not cause separation situations. If you leave the room, take your child with you. Your child will need that during the first couple of days. You don’t have to do a lot. Your mere presence in the room will be enough to create a save environment. Take a seat in a corner of the room, so that your child can see you. Do not play with your child. The only thing you need to do is watch your child and enjoy the fact that your child will explore the “new world”. Do not read a magazine, do not talk on the phone and do not engage with other things that will distract you. Do not push your kid to certain things and do not contact the other kids in the group.

Why do I have to act that way?

By doing too much, talking to your child, reading him/her a book, playing with him/her, walking across the room and so forth, you are taking away the possibility for your child to connect with the new reference person. By doing that you are entering the world of the educator and the settling-in phase might take a lot longer. On our try-out-day you will have the opportunity to actively play with your child and explore the room. If your child does not leave your side in the first week, you have to give him/her more time. Talk to your educator to figure
out what the next steps might be.

Parents are role models

As a mother/father you are having a huge influence on your child. If you talk to the educator in a friendly and open way, your child will recognize that and might handle the situation in a more relaxed way. Your child will sense that you are happy with the new situation and that you trust the nursery school. That is why it is important that you should talk to us about open questions and about your fears and doubts prior to the settling-in phase.

The first few steps of separation

As we mentioned before, there should be no separations in the first three days. These first three days are playing a major role for your child in the settling-in phase. Your child should not be stressed by premature separations. You can try to create the first separation on the forth day (but make sure that this does not happen on a Monday). Please, do not leave the room without saying goodbye to your child. By doing that, you are risking that your child might not trust the situation any longer and that he/she will keep an eye on you for the rest of the time. As a “precaution” your child might cling to you, so you don’t sneak out without his/her knowledge again. If you say goodbye, your child might cry or might even try to convince you to stay. And it is his/her right to do so. After the first goodbye, leave the room, but not the nursery school and observe your child’s reaction. If your child can be distracted by the educators, you can leave the room for a longer period of time on the next day. If your child cries, once you are saying goodbye, leave the room anyway, but please, stay close. If the educator is not able to comfort and soothe your child within a few moments, you will be asked to come back to the room immediately.

The right way to pick up your child

Come back to the group and pick up your child, but do not return to the group after leaving it, even if your child wants to go back, instead head home directly. That way, your child gets used to the situation of getting picked-up. On the next day, your child will remember the feeling and he/she will start to understand what it means when you tell him/her: “I will pick you up after lunch.” This is an important learning step for your child.

The end of the settling-in phase

The settling-in phase is successfully over as soon as the educator is able to calm down your kid instantaneously. That does not mean that your child does not cry anymore when you say goodbye. Your child communicates that he/she is sad that you are leaving. And that is okay. But, after a successful settling-in phase, your child will calm down shortly after you left. If it is possible, it would be better if your child only stays at the nursery school part-time (until lunch), in the first few weeks. Remember: even if the settling-in phase works perfectly, your child will need all his/her energy to deal with the new situation. An all-day care will make this job more difficult for your child.

Unfavorable times to start the settling-in phase

The settling-in phase should not overlap with other changes within the family (e.g.: birth of another child, moving to a new place and so forth). This could be too much to handle for your child.
Delay the settling-in phase if your child is sick. Even the slightest illness will decrease your child’s interest and his/her ability to handle the new situation. If you already know, that there will be a time where you cannot accompany your child to the nursery school (a vacation, hospitalization, etc.), the settling-in phase should be delayed and should start afterwards. “Don’t do it on Monday” is a very important concept for all new activities during that time. This is especially true for the first time your child will be alone in the nursery schoon, or the first time your child will sleep in the nursery school. It is very difficult for a child to feel comfortable in a new surrounding after staying home with his/her parents all weekend.


The first 3 days

You and your child should stay at the nursery school no more than an hour. No separations!

The 4. day

The first separation (15 minutes at the most). Say goodbye to your child, leave the room, but stay close. If your child cannot be comforted, you will be asked to come back.
In that case, the next separation should be 2 or 3 days away. On the other hand, if your child can be comforted right away, the separation can be extended the next day.

Week 2 & 3

Even if your child stays at the nursery school without any hesitation, you should pick him/her up after lunch. If your child handles the separations well, he/she can stay after lunch as well.
We will talk to you about situations like sleeping for instance, to make sure that everything is according to your child’s needs. In the first 3 weeks you have to be reachable and you should be able to pick up your child at any given time.
Making the separation easier
If your child has an especially hard time to say goodbye to one parent, it could make sense to let the other parent accompany the child in the settling-in phase. It could be possible that a child gets used to a new surrounding quicker when he/she is accompanied by his/her father (or vice versa).
Leave a personal item in the group the first couple of days. A jacket, your purse, etc. That item might convey that you will be back later. Create some sort of rituals when you say goodbye. For instance: let your kid “fly” to the educator like an airplane, wave goodbye to him/her through the window, and so forth.

Avoid unnecessary hesitations

Even if it is hard: try to say goodbye as quickly as possible. It is usually stressful for a child if the parting takes a long time.

Finding individual solutions

Don’t be disappointed with you, your child, or the nursery school, if the settling-in takes longer than you thought. It is nobody’s “fault”. You have to be patient. Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward in a secure way. Within the relationship “parents, child, educator” we will find a solution that is fitting for your child. Remember: even if it takes longer, it will turn out well.