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Starting nursery or going back after a break can be an exciting but worrying time for your little one. It’s totally natural for your child to worry about the change or be upset about missing you, and it’s completely understandable if you’re feeling mixed emotions about it too.

That’s why we’ve put together some answers to questions you might have, reassurance about any worries, and handy tips you can try with your wee one to get them feeling less nervous about going back. 

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My child is worried about the thought of going back to nursery – what can I do to help?

Speaking to your little one about how they’re feeling before going back to nursery can really help you both. If your toddler doesn’t talk about their feelings much, there are tips that can help toddlers open up – some like to draw while they talk, others talk best when out for a walk, some like it if you sit down at their level. Whatever you try, it’s good to know where their little head’s at about going back to nursery.

There are also some great books out there which can help you chat to your wee one about their feelings - check out the Scottish Book Trust’s top books for helping your wee one deal with change. This PDF from the NHS also has some helpful tips and activities you can do with your child to help them feel calmer.

If they’re feeling worried about going back, it might help to reassure them that lots of people probably feel this way at first. You could remind them how exciting it will be to see their friends, play games, and start learning fun things together again. 

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If you’re worried about how your child will cope with nursery, you’re not alone. In this short film, Early Year Education Psychologist James McTaggart has some tips for how you can help them. And remember, as he says, your children are amazing!

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How can I help them look forward to going back to nursery?

There are lots of little things you can try in the run up to going back to nursery that might help them feel less nervous, and even a little excited. How about getting your child to think about all the things they’re looking forward to – from making new friends and playing together, to sitting down for story time? On their first day, you could even have a special breakfast to celebrate and get things off to a positive start.

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My child’s behaviour has really changed – what can I do?

Every child reacts to change differently. They could be quiet and withdrawn, acting up, more clingy or more excitable. Whether this is their first time at nursery or childcare, or they’re returning after a break, these are all really natural responses and are their way of dealing with change.

Reassure your little one that they’ll be safe, and that you are there if they need you. They may not always be ready to talk about how they feel so by letting them know you’re there they will be able to come to you for support when they need it most. 

Playing with your child can also help them cope with all of these changes. You’ll find lots of ideas and tips in our page on helping your child through play.

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What if I am worried about my child’s mental health?

If you’re worried about your child’s mental health please do seek advice from your GP or speak to your child’s nursery. If any changes in mood or behaviour persist then this is also a cue to seek further advice from your GP. Our page on supporting your child's mental health has more advice.

The Solihull Approach Online courses cover a range of topics and ages from pregnancy to 19+ years. These courses are for everyone, for everyday parenting. They don’t tell you how to parent, that’s up to you. Instead they offer a way to understand what might be going on and space to think about how you want to respond. You can find out more on the Solihull website and access the courses for free using the code TARTAN.

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What can I do if I’m feeling anxious and stressed too?

Your child can pick up on how you’re feeling, and this may make them worried about talking to you about how they’re feeling. So it’s good to remember to take time for yourself – even if it’s just a few minutes in a quiet, relaxing spot to get a little breathing space. 

It's natural for you to be in two minds about your little one going to nursery. On the one hand, you might be feeling nervous about being away from each other. At the same time, you might have a sense of relief about not having to juggle so much.

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Is there any other support out there?

Chatting to another adult, friend, partner or relative about your child going back to nursery can be a great way for you to help ease your worries. If you know other parents whose children are going back to nursery, chances are they might also be going through a similar rollercoaster of emotions. So it can help you both to get those worries off your chest. Just remember – there's lots of support out there if you’re worried.

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