Settling new starters

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By Sue CowleyEducational author and trainer

Sue Cowley explores the key areas that affect new starters, and offers advice and top tips on how you can help to make the transition process easier

Smiling child in classroom/nursery

Some children cope easily with new experiences and move into an early years setting with ease. These children are typically confident individuals, or those who have already spent time with different carers. But other children will find it hard to settle, or might have special circumstances that make it tricky for them to relax and be happy in your setting. In this article, you will find tips and advice for helping all kinds of new starters as they begin their time at your setting.

The Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS) states that children should ‘take changes of routine in their stride’ and ‘form positive relationships with adults and other children’. Clearly, these are longer-term aims that the setting must work towards with each child. But practitioners should also bear these goals in mind during the initial settling-in period for each child.

Separation anxiety

It is entirely natural for children to find the initial separation from their parents upsetting, and for their parents or carers to get upset as well. For most, time is the best remedy – after a few days or a couple of weeks, the child is keen to attend the setting and barely notices when Mum or Dad leaves. Some children and parents, however, will display very high levels of anxiety. Where Mum or Dad feels unhappy, insecure or guilty about leaving the child at the setting, this can be passed on subconsciously to the child.

Advice sheets for parents

Where practical, a slow introduction to the setting works well. Gradually, the child stays for more time, and the settling-in period is smooth for all concerned. A home visit can also ease a child’s transition into your setting.

For some settings, however, it is not possible or practical to make a gradual introduction; some children can remain anxious about separation, despite a gradual approach. Where this is the case, you will need to deal with children who are upset when their parents or carers drop them off. At all times, remember to see the situation from the child’s perspective: being left in a new environment with people they hardly know must be unsettling.

Sometimes a baby or child will appear very upset on being separated from Mum or Dad, but within a few minutes is happily playing. Meanwhile, the parents tear themselves apart with worry that their child is sobbing their heart out all day long. Tell the parents that you will contact them if their child does not settle quickly and the crying continues for more than a short while.

Help parents to ease the settling-in process by giving them a copy of the ‘Settling your child into the setting during the first few days’ advice sheet.

Top tips for easing separation anxiety

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