Settling a Toddler: What can help?

Settling a younger child in a new country can be quite a challenge. Everything is new, nothing the same, the environment, outdoor, the house, furniture, etc.. Parents may experience some stress and anxieties, the child will feel too. On the other hand, some things may be the same such as having dinner together, sibling relationships, games, clothes, toys.

It was very difficult initially to settle our youngest ( I can now say that we have turned a huge corner, no more tears, potty trained day and night, great success! Some strategies have been particularly helpful so I write these here in the view that it may be helpful to other families experiencing similar situations.

  • Find a special activity you like to do together, take pictures, bring these to nursery, show these to staff
  • Bringing a teddy or comforter to nursery
  • Talking to staff about his interests
  • Encouraging your child to talk about what he likes at nursery
  • Talking to staff about an activity you did at home
  • Communicative and positive transition times: morning and home times; talk about routines, eating, sleeping, potty training, mood
  • Transition times with family members i.e. brother and sister coming in to the nursery and talking about what he does there. For example, looking at animals together, or a book. It is a great opportunity for the younger child to show to his siblings his environment.
  • Bringing a toy from home to show his friends and staff (often a new toy we purchased as we had little)
  • Looking at pictures of him doing an activity in the nursery portfolio
  • Mum and dad coming to play for a little bit at nursery
  • Surprises at the end of the day such as choosing at the supermarket what he wants to eat for dinner. Rewards such as time on the iPad.
  • Finding a common interest between home and nursery, and share pictures, photographs, drawings, at nursery. For example, our little one loves animals so we talked about that at the nursery and we talked about our adventures seeing animals. We have visited the chicken enclosure at nursery as well as the rabbit area. Our little one was able to talk about the animals to us, how he feeds, how he holds them
  • Keep the routine going, similar routines to the ones before.
  • Repeating scripts has worked well when he did not want to go to nursery. For example, ‘let’s go to nursery’ (not giving a choice such as ‘do you want to go to nursery’), ‘Maman is going to work, lots of work to do, boring work, you know I love you and will come back at the end of the day to pick you up’ (reassurance that you will be back as everything is new, the child may be anxious about you not coming back), ‘I am working today, a boring day (not letting the child think your are having amazing adventures when not with you)’, ‘you will have lots of fun here’, ‘you like the slide’ (emphasis on likes and interests), ‘you like it at nursery’, ‘you have such amazing days’… keep it positive and motivating.
  • Try to stay calm and keep positive. Children can pick up our emotions very quickly so by keeping calm and positive they will feel that way too…
  • A keyperson approach or a person who appears to have built a positive relationship with your child may help settle him in transition times. Having a relationship with that keyperson may help understand what the child is going through or discuss more in-depth their interests and difficulties.
  • Ensure that you continue to respect my rules and values of the family. Continue to be firm with ground rules. It can be difficult to continue adopting these rules when everything is new and different. It will help to respect these rules, be persistent.
  • Keep communicating with staff about difficulties and challenges. We initially had three days of childcare, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I felt it did not encourage adaptation as it was too ‘bitty’. Staff felt it would give my child too long at home if I joined the three days together, like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, leaving a full four days at home. Although I understand that concept, I felt that my child would benefit from the three day routine, similar to his older siblings as they go to school. We kept the communication opened and carried on discussing the issues. I then decided to move his days to three consecutive days. It worked much better for him.
  • Ensure that you understand different routines and whether these work for you and your child. We are still having difficulties with sleep patterns. At nursery, they sleep for an hour during the day, which is a completely different routine to the UK. My child was chocked initially about this routine and did not want to sleep, but now goes on the mat and has an hour. For us, it is tricky because it means he does not go to sleep until 10pm. We are still finding our way with this change…



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