Did you enjoy a holiday this summer? A break is refreshing and rejuvenating for all of us but returning to the working groove can be hard for both parents and children alike. A couple of weeks away is a long time in a child’s life and they will have relished that extra attention from Mum and Dad. This may mean some children find it hard to separate from parents on their first days back at nursery. There may be a few tears and their behaviour may regress; be reassured that this is normal. Before too long they will reacquaint themselves with the routine but there are a few things you can do to help prepare them and minimise the stress for them and yourself.

Top Tips

  • Talk about nursery positively
  • Remind children about the things they like about nursery
  • If they have anxieties listen to these and reassure them
  • Let them choose a comforter to take with them
  • Re-establish their home routine in line with the nursery day
  • Give them family photos to take to nursery
  • Be organised and ready for the first day back
  • Make time to share information with their key person
  • Say a proper goodbye and reassure your child you will be back later
  • Plan for additional time at nursery on the first morning, in case of upset

 Talk and Listen

Start to talk to children positively about nursery, remind them about their friends, their favourite staff and the fun activities they like to do there. Perhaps get them to draw pictures of the building, their friends and their key person. Look on the nursery website and find pictures to remind them of the fun they have there.  Walk past their nursery when children are playing and get them excited about going back.

If they show any reluctance or anxiety about returning and they are old enough to talk about this, ask them why and listen? Have a chat about how they might be feeling.  Say that you also would love to be able to spend more time with them but holidays are short term and you have to go back to work too.  Even if you are feeling upset about them going back to nursery – stay positive; children are very quick to pick up on the anxieties of the adults around them.

Comfort items

Gather some photos of the family on holiday. Create a little scrap book or put items in a holiday memory box for them to take into nursery to show their friends and the staff.  Family photos can also help to reassure children if they get sad or distressed during the nursery day.

Consider what your child might want to take into nursery as a comforter: a favourite soft toy; a blanket; a book they like to read.

Re-establish the routine

Work to get them into a more normal sleeping and eating routine to help with that first day back.  Getting everyone out of the house on time will be a challenge for you as well as them. Be organised to minimise the stress of dashing around on that first day. Get clothes out and pack bags on the night before.

Communicate with the nursery

If it has been a long break (more than a month) contact the nursery to confirm which member of staff will be the child’s key person. Find out if there have been any significant changes that you need to be aware of.

On the first day back, be prepared to spend a bit of time talking to the child’s key person about what they have done, how they are feeling and any changes that may have happened whilst they are away (for example: their speech may have developed; they may have started to potty train; they developed a real interest in water play or something else they discovered on holiday). 

Going back to work can be particularly stressful for you too, as you play catch up on an inbox bursting with e-mails. Where possible, organise your schedule so that you can be available if needed. Nursery staff are used to children returning and being a little unsettled.  It is only on a very rare occasion that a nursery might ask for a child to be picked up early.

Your child is an individual

All children are different – most children are happy to be welcomed back; some children are a bit tearful but settle back in when they know the parent has left. Occasionally children suffer more extreme separation anxiety, especially if they are out of a routine that they developed whilst on holiday or if they are a bit jet lagged or possibly a bit poorly. Nursery staff are good at distracting and settling children to take their mind off their worries. Staff recognise when children need sleep or have food at different times and will accommodate the child’s needs.  If you have recently stepped off the plane, let the nursery know that, then they are aware there may be an issue with time differences.

Say a proper goodbye and remind them you will return

You may want to stay in your child’s room to settle your child for a bit longer than usual.  Alternatively, you may want to remain out of sight but on the premises for a short while just to feel reassured that they are alright.  However, don’t sneak out of the room without saying a proper goodbye; it is more distressing for children to suddenly realise you are no longer there. When you leave the room, it is important to say goodbye and remind them that you will be back for them after work as usual.  If you leave them when they are a little tearful, say that their keyperson or buddy will look after them and feel free to check in with the nursery to find out how they are doing.

When returning to collect your child, take the time to find out from staff about their day. You can ask how well they settled and talk to them about what they did at nursery.  The chances are, normal life will have resumed, they will have had a lovely day and everyone will be back into the swing of things. So, time to start thinking about the next holiday!