Around the age of six to nine months, young children first become aware of strangers. It’s natural for them to protest at being parted from mum or dad and left with someone else, even someone they know well, such as a grandparent.
It’s very common and is known as separation anxiety.
Despite their tears, the chances are that once you’ve left, they will settle down and enjoy their day.
They might cry when you collect them too. It doesn’t mean they've been miserable – up until the age of three or four, children often feel a rush of emotion that results in tears at seeing mum or dad again.
It’s hard to say goodbye when your child is crying, but the way you handle this is important.
Make the process quick. Be clear it’s time for you to go – even if they start crying.
Give them a kiss, say "I’m going now" and tell them you’ll come back. Then wave and walk away. Make sure they have a favourite carer with them to offer comfort as you leave.
Don’t pop back to check they're OK – this will reinforce their tears. You could stand outside for a couple of minutes to reassure yourself that the crying stops.
If you are concerned, call the carer half an hour later to find out how your child is.
Try not to show your anxiety. Your child will sense this and will become even more upset at being separated from you. The more confident you are about leaving, the more confident they will feel.
At home, be very positive about nursery. Talk to your child about the lovely friends they have there, and the exciting toys.
On the way, take a favourite toy. Even if the nursery doesn’t allow home toys, your child might enjoy the security of holding it on the journey.
Collect them with a snack (such as fruit) and a big cuddle.
Involve friends and family
To get your child used to the idea of being with other people, ask a trusted friend or family member they know well to look after them for five minutes while you pop out. They can tell you how they settled.
You could also ask your child's father, a grandparent or someone else they know well to drop them off at nursery, so you say goodbye to your child at home. Once they arrive, they're likely to have been distracted and more keen to go in.
Talk to the nursery
If, despite the above, your child still isn’t settling, talk to the nursery manager.
Your child may benefit from extra comfort and support, and the manager should be able to suggest strategies.
It’s worth checking how they are during the day. If you are told they're fine, believe it – nurseries would not be happy to look after a child who cried all day.
Ask about staff turnover – is this high? It’s unsettling for a child to have lots of different carers as this won’t offer consistency.
Trust your instinct
If you really feel your child isn’t settling, and it isn’t essential for them to go to nursery, you could give them a break and try again next term.
If they do need to go, then it isn’t a good idea to move them from nursery to nursery. The chances are it would still be difficult for you to leave each other at a new nursery.
Try to stick with it and the chances are, as they grow older, they will get more used to it.