The end of the nursery day can be as chaotic and loud as the start but is compounded by everyone being tired. As young children do not have the language to say how they are feeling, this can be a challenging time as they wait with anticipation to be collected. For some children, the structure of the nursery day may be the only experience of routine they have and the consistency of this will help them fell safe. The unpredictability of life outside the nursery may evoke mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety as they are unsure what awaits them.
Joe aged three became very anxious and upset as soon as the coats were put on at home time. He became tearful and kept saying he needed the toilet, even though he had just been. His keyworker Gail explained that his parents had recently separated and were literally fighting over him and who would have custody during the week. His dad had moved out of the family home and was renting a flat nearby. He spent some nights with mum and others with dad, and was understandably very unsettled by this.
I encouraged Gail to talk to his parents separately about this and discuss the distress this uncertainty was causing Joe. They were both loving parents who had been side tracked into their own battles with each other. I proposed that at the start of each week she asked for the weekly overview so she knew where he was staying each night. I suggested that Gail asked both parents for a passport size photo of themselves and his bedroom at each of their homes. I recommended that she make Joe a chart each week and attach the relevant photos for each day. She could then show Joe every day the photo of which parent would be collecting him and the bedroom he would be sleeping in so he knew exactly what was happening. This would also enable her to refer to this during the day so his anxiety could be reduced.
This sense of predictability enabled Joe to relax and look forward to seeing each parent and helped his concept of time as he could see from his chart when he was next seeing the other parent. It also helped Gail with some of the other children in the nursery whose parents had separated as it encouraged her to explore different ways of supporting them with managing this.
The impact of family background and external circumstances in children’s lives is paramount to shaping who they are and how they respond to every event in their day. For nursery practitioners to be able to explore the impact of this is crucial in gainer a deeper understanding of the children they work with and developing a greater ability to meet their needs.