10 Ways We’re Preparing to Start Nursery [In an Anxious Post Lockdown World]

August 24, 2020

September’s approaching and that means only one thing: schools are back after lockdown and my little one is finally off to nursery. This is how we’ve been getting ready for the new academic chapter, with my anxiety in tow.

Before lockdown happened, our three year old was meant to start nursery – and I was terrified. I felt he wasn’t ready for it, I certainly wasn’t ready for it, and all these worst case scenarios that raced through my mind overtook any positivity that was meant to derive from the exercise. So when the country went into lockdown, and our little man’s first day of nursery was cancelled, a part of me felt a little bit relieved.

As someone with chronic anxiety, I found lockdown brutal. My usual daily stresses were amplified so I was thankful my weekly therapy continued, albeit virtually. As a way to keep focussed I wrote up a list of things to do to pass the time positively; getting into my cross stitch again, baking, and for some reason, tackling some of my biggest concerns that dominated my preschool worry, such as Reuben’s potty training. That was a biggie ticked off the list.

Now lockdown is easing into a new normal where social distancing and wearing face masks is a way of life, we find ourselves already approaching the Autumn academic year. And that means nursery is back on.

Nursery may be starting five months later than planned but to see the positive side, we’ve gained the time getting up to speed. After months of little contact with other kids Reuben is so ready to go, excited to make new friends and be a big boy.

Nursery post lockdown will be different for sure, so it’s probably a bonus that Reuben didn’t experience it before to compare. The new normal will be his normal too – all the hand sanitising and social distancing he’s now become used to won’t be an unfamiliar ground to fear.

So you may be wondering, how have we gone from terrified to feeling (a bit more) ready to do this?

Here’s how we’ve been getting ourselves prepared for the start of nursery, the steps we’re taking to feel truly equipped for the next chapter

1.Getting Potty Trained

Getting Reuben out of nappy pants and more independent with his toileting was the biggest concern I always had over nursery. Thankfully lockdown gifted us the time and ability to address the issue so now Reuben’s into pants and potties, I personally feel more confident about him being at nursery at hours. I’ll just have to remember the spare pants and trousers in case of an accident!

2.Learning to Tell the Time

Time is still an abstract concept to preschoolers but that doesn’t mean they can’t begin to grasp what a clock face says. To help with setting limits and to give forewarning on a day’s activities, we’ve been telling Reuben what the clock will look like when it’s time to go/turn off the tv/get his shoes. Rather than simply saying, “We’re leaving at 10 o’clock”, we’ll go on to describe the look of the time: “When the big hand’s pointing at the twelve and the little hand’s pointing at the ten.” It’s great because it gives Reuben a confidence boost telling us when it’s time and it’s helping hugely with reducing the tantrums!

3.Practice Social Distancing

Keeping a safe distance between kids will be next to impossible for preschoolers but any thing helps. One negative impact the lockdown imparted on Reuben is a wariness of people getting too close, so I’m hoping close contact with his peers won’t upset him. However he should be able to follow simple guidelines because of this awareness; the school’s one way system is marked out by coloured arrows, and as these are outside the school Reuben’s been enjoying following them like it’s a fun trail.

4.Talking Positively

As someone who openly expresses my anxiety, I need to watch how I’m coming across if I’m trying to big up nursery. Just because I may be worried about something to do with nursery, doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be showing it. After all, doing anything for the first time can be scary, especially when you’re a child used to being around mum and dad all day long. I found myself saying “you won’t be able to do that at nursery”, like if he’d gone to the potty and not pulled his pants up. It’s negative speak that isn’t exactly helpful. So I’m making sure we’re talking about nursery in a good light; saying lots about the exciting things he’ll do, the new friends he’ll meet, and how I know he’ll love it.

5. Celebrating it

Starting nursery is a huge milestone – taking the first step on the academic ladder! So I want to make sure we celebrate our little man’s big day. It’ll be nice for him to have something to look forward to the other side of scary, (much like when he went for his booster jabs recently.) Maybe a Happy Meal lunch? A nice afternoon out or visit to the play park? But to start the day he’s got a card to open on the morning, that I hope will make him smile.

6.Meeting the Uniform

As Reuben’s attending a school nursery he has a relaxed version of the school uniform to wear. He has a little school emblem jumper, but he’ll be wearing joggers which will be comfy and familiar for him. We’ve been trying the uniform on just to see how it fits and feels, so come the morning it won’t be a totally new concept to him.

7.Setting the Scene

Knowing what to expect can help with nerves, so once lockdown began easing, we were invited to Reuben’s nursery. Visiting the learning space that will shortly be his helped put the reality of nursery properly in the picture for him. But even before we did this, we started with some books about nursery. The Pirate Pete “I’m Starting Nursery” book (just as fab as the potty book in the series) gives a glimpse into preschool life, ensuring little learners can look forward to fun with new friends.

8.Kicking the Dummy Habit

Despite lockdown’s hardship, it did gift us two milestones: potty training was one, giving up the dummies – which I long worried would never happen – was the other. It may not have happened out of the nicest situations (Reuben had a nasty home accident where he badly cut his mouth) but the bedtime dummy was gone. We’ve had to relearn self soothing to sleep as the long term dummy reliance was the one way ticket to dreamland. Even so, dummies are a thing of the past, and with their departure we’ve seen improvement with Reuben’s speech. Not only does he come out with some fabulous comments (read: cheeky but too cute), I can see how much self assured he is now he can now talk so well.

9. Walking the School Run

The morning ritual of walking the kids to school is a new experience for me, as well as Reuben, so naturally I’ve been feeling overwhelmed thinking about it. We have four schools just on one street so the route we’ll be walking come September will be pretty hectic, so to get used to the journey alone we’re rehearsing the school run regularly. The idea here is to get us acquainted with the walk so that when we’re joining everyone along the road, we’ll have reduced the possible overload of sensory stress.

10. Visualising the [New] Day

I can’t escape the reality my baby boy is on his way to nursery. But it’s happening, and it’s not like I haven’t had the time to get my head around it. Part of me will be beside myself – I can see myself sitting on the curb outside the nursery door the entire time, afraid to walk away and leave him in the care of someone else besides me. I’m hoping that by visualising the day, breaking it down and planning for it will help me cope. Make a plan of what I can return home and do – some ironing or cross stitch, or allowing myself a cup of tea while I blog. I can’t see myself being able to relax but with time it would be nice to relax with – and finish! – that cup of tea.

Do you have little ones heading off to nursery this Autumn? Maybe it’s the next step up to school? Either way, how are you dealing with the mixed emotions off waving goodbye at the gate after lockdown?

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