Three important things to consider before bringing your kids to a nursery
In our western world a nursery (in GB the word “crèche” is used) has become indispensable.
They allow parents to combine work and family.
In some families it is unavoidable in their life situations, for others it’s a cultural norm, for some a standard of living.
When I was working in a nursery myself a couple of years ago, I encountered many different reasons why parents brought their children to us.
During my education I was surrounded with teachers that, of course, taught us that going to a nursery is the best thing that can happen to a child. We learned how to provide the best, most professional, warm and stimulating center possible. We learned about what is good for the children’s health, their brain, how to deal with a whole group of children with different backgrounds, personalities and needs.
Well, here are my thoughts on 3 important things to consider if you choose to give your child into a nursery – or in the case you have to, on what things you should watch out for.
1. What is the personality of your child?
a. In my experience, there are those children that love to be in a nursery. They feel happy and enthusiastic to go, to be there and are almost sad when it is time to go home. Not because they do not love their home, but because they are highly social people, flourishing in the social contact they have with other children.
b. Then there are the children who will never be at ease in a nursery. We had a boy at my place of work, crying most of the time, even after weeks of getting used to be there. He was treated very well – but was still deeply unhappy to be around so many children and away from his parents.
c. Then there are the children that are simply accepting the reality of a nursery.
2. Inquire about the place your child has in the dynamic of a group
Working in a nursery, I loved to observe the dynamic of a group. It was pretty easy to recognize the obvious roles the children had inside the group.
There was the leader, the follower, the outsider, the clown, the boss and the mediator – among others.
However, here is the thing: Many times, a child sticks with his role he gets during his time in the nursery.
A capable professional will know that and help that group to include the outsider, take care of the bullies and help a leader to lead well.
This is the ideal and what professionals are trained to do.
However, rarely are those professionals having this sensitivity and capacity to truly intervene and help a group of children to have this nourishing and healthy group dynamic.
One of the colleagues in the center where I was working was in charge of a group and had an amazing gift to handle this aspect and I loved to learn from her. However, I’ve seen many others, not doing anything about it. For the children involved, the role they got into during their time in the nursery (where they do not have the emotional maturity to decide about that role themselves) would stick to the child far into its school time.
3. Be aware that giving your child into the hands of a professional does not necessarily mean that your child is in the best hands.
If your car needs a fix, you bring it into a garage and you know that they will do a better job than you could, trying to fix it. After all, they are professionals.
The same goes for your wedding pictures. If you can afford it somehow, you will hire a professional. He will be able to use his expertise and high quality material to make the amazing shoots you want for this special day.
Often, we tend to believe that it’s the same with the “experts” in the area of child care.
However, let me tell you: My colleagues and I were only human beings at work. And all over that field of child care you can see the same condition again and again. We went to work. We did our job. Most of us as good as we could, with lot of heart, a good will and caring intentions for all children.
However, these were not our children.
a. Many of us didn’t have children on our own. We never had our own babies; we did not know by instinct what these little three months old babies really needed.
On top of that, we had a whole group of children to care for.
As we were talking about work, one of my friends in the field told me, that she was caring for a baby, about six months old, which was always crying. The noise level used to be so high that she often put him outside the room in the hallway, to be able to breathe inside the room. The baby was often crying outside for quite a while.
Another colleague, caring for a similar baby did take this baby into the baby carrier, while taking care for the other children. But what she did was definitely not the norm.
b. Most of us parents don’t have the same easiness when it comes to understand our own children. Often, we tend to be able to be more patient and gracious with one of our children than with the other who has a different temperament.
The same thing happens in a nursery, only in a much larger extent.
There are the children we have a natural sympathy and love for and then there are those that really challenge us with their whole behavior. The professionals that are aware of that often do a good job in trying to be equal with all children. However, in stress situations this proves to be difficult.
Others simply follow their feelings, creating a very difficult environment for the child they don’t understand.
I know that this article does not really promote nursery.
And indeed, if it wouldn’t be unavoidable in specific life situations, I would most of the time suggest a parent not to bring their children to nursery.
In unavoidable situations I would advise:
a.) Do not ever entrust your child to any nursery with the belief that your child is in better hands with professionals than it would be with you. Take an active part to get to know your child’s teacher and the other children by talking with your child about his day.
b.) Send the child to nursery as late as possible – best when it can talk and tell you about his feelings and experience.
c.) Send the child for as little time as possible. Organize your life in a way that you have time left to invest in your child when it is with you.
An exception would be the highly social child that just loves it, does not having siblings at home and visibly flourishes in such an environment. These children are not very common, but they’re usually easy to recognize.
In our family, we don’t send our children to nursery, as I have the privilege to be a stay-at-home mom. Of course it comes with a financial sacrifice, but we can live with that. In our little village of 400 habitants we have a playschool with a nice program once or twice a morning per week, where children can play with other kids of the same age. We are the only family not sending our children. The older ones now have the same – if not a higher – level of integration and social contact as the other kids in kindergarten and school.
Even next summer, when the third child will enter Kindergarten, I will keep the youngest at home and will enjoy having more time to invest into his life before he will enter the kindergarten. I’m sure that every investment of quality time we can make into a kid at this young age will bear a kind of fruit we will not be able to experience with the same investment at a later age. It’s the most important time frame for receiving love and building an emotional security in a child’s life.