What I Wish I’d Known:

One Parent’s Top 6 Tips on How to Navigate the Early Days of Nursery

Meet Daria, one of the fantastic mothers on our Parent Panel; a diverse community of Bright Horizons parents sharing their experiences of raising happy, thriving and confident children.

In this article, Daria shares what her family experienced at the beginning stages of her son’s nursery journey. In this candid reflection, she shares the high and lows, as well as her best hindsight tips for new parents who have yet to embark on this journey or are currently in the throes of it. We hope you’ll find Daria’s parent-to-parent advice to be insightful and comforting…

  1. Feeling All the Feelings

The first few days of nursery felt like a whirlwind of emotions, not just for our son but for us as parents too. From excitement to anxiety, my husband and I experienced a whole range of feelings. I vividly remember the mixture of pride, joy and worry as I dropped off my son on that first day. His tiny hand clutching mine tightly and the uncertain look in his eyes after leaving my sight for the first time tugged at my heartstrings like nothing else.

What I wish I'd known: It's okay to feel overwhelmed. Take comfort in the fact that these feelings will eventually give way to a sense of routine and familiarity.

  1. A [Nursery] Bag Full of Tricks

I remember packing 5 sets of spare clothes, 4 dummies and 2 blankies (and it still felt like it wasn’t enough) in my son’s nursery bag. I also remember the friendly but puzzled looks from the staff that came along with it. But what if he needs his grey blanket and not the yellow one? What if he gets cold and needs his green jumper? And what will the practitioners do if he needs Calpol – should I pack it for them in case?

What I wish I'd known: Keep it simple. While it's tempting to pack everything but the kitchen sink, remember that your child’s nursery is more than well-equipped to handle almost any situation. Whilst I think you should ask questions when in doubt, trust that your child will be in good hands.

  1. Navigating Separation Anxiety

Saying goodbye to our son at nursery, especially during the first few days, was one of the toughest challenges for us. The clinging hugs and the heart-wrenching cries. As I grappled with my feelings of guilt and worry, I found myself questioning whether I was making the right choice. It was difficult going back to work with these thoughts in my mind.

What I wish I'd known: Trust the process. I understand now that separation anxiety is a natural part of the transition to nursery, and it often fades with time. We have established a drop-off routine now that has helped ease our child's anxiety and built his confidence and resilience. My son now runs inside the nursery, sometimes without even saying bye, and feels very excited about the day ahead of him.

  1. Expect the Unexpected

No matter how meticulously we planned, the first weeks of nursery threw a few curveballs our way. From unexpected emotional outbursts to sudden bursts of independence, every day we dropped our son off brought some new surprises and challenges. We understand now that this was a big change for him and that sometimes we, as parents, just need to pause for a moment and be more understanding of these little yet big feelings.

What I wish I'd known: Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and learning, both for us as parents and our little boy. Celebrate the small victories, whether it's a successful naptime or a newfound friendship with other children and/or nursery practitioner and don't be afraid to laugh at the inevitable mishaps along the way.

  1. Finding Your Tribe

We eventually found that one of the greatest sources of support was the fellow parents. Whether it was swapping quick stories at the drop-off (with occasional eye-rolling – a universal language for parents of toddlers and preschoolers) or even over a cup of coffee, we found that connecting with a few parents made a big difference for us.

What I wish I'd known: Reach out to other parents for advice and encouragement and even a dose of humour from the start. Remember, you are all in this together and a word of comfort can make you feel more at ease when it comes to changes and even anxiety.

  1. Embrace the Rollercoaster Ride

What once seemed daunting and overwhelming has now become a familiar and joyous part of our daily routine. While there were moments of doubt and uncertainty along the way, particularly during the first week or so, there were also moments of happiness, laughter, and pride that far outweighed the challenges.

To all the parents - embrace the adventure ahead; each day brings new opportunities for your child’s growth and discovery. And above all, remember to appreciate all the special moments, for they are the true treasures of nursery life. Our son has achieved much more than we ever expected – from learning to social skills.

To find out more about our wonderful Parent Panel, including Daria, visit our Parent Panel page. You can also find more blogs, activities, booklists and activities in our Family Resource Zone!