DS 23 months struggling to settle in nursery (in France)

(45 Posts)
Romilly70 Sun 30-Sep-12 08:47:12

(I originally posted this in pre-school education but didn't get a response so perhaps some mums of children at creche / halte garderie or even maternelle may have some advice for me, please?)

DS is almost 2 and i have got him a place at a nursery (halte jeux) for a couple of afternoons a week. Basically it is 3 hours 13.30 to 16.30. The children normally nap for the first 1 1/2 hours have a snack then play.

I am not sure how this compares to the uk system as have never used it apart from a few visits to surestart centres when i visit my parents and i always stay. he also goes to a mother & toddler group (centre d'acceuil, run by the mairie) so i stay there too with him.

He is going through "adaptation". Normally, i would stay for 5 minutes then leave him for 5 and then see if he cries or settles with his key-worker (Let's call her Amelie). For the last couple of weeks, we have done it differently and i have stayed to helped him settle and then left for 5 minutes. (After telling him i am going to the toilet or something and will be coming back.) The minute i leave he starts crying and Amelie cannot even approach him without him running back to me. The staff are fantastic; really patient and particularly flexible for him. He has his teddy to cuddle in the few minutes I am not there and they do their best to play with his favourite toys, but DS is not having it.

I know he like the nursery as he is absolutely fine with the activities, the other kids and the staff as long as he can see i am in the vicinity. He is also only there for an hour maximim. We get there at 3pm after the other children have woken from their sieste (and hopefully DS has had a prior nap at home too, but not always - his sleeping is not great.)

Also outside school he has got clingier and i struggle to even leave him with his dad when i go to yoga once a week or with his grandma when i have to pop out occasionally. Although DP says after about 5 minutes of rolling round on the ground he is usually distracted and fine.

I need him to settle as he is way too attached to me. Even sleeps in my bed and can't settle without me (is a long story). However he needs to be a bit more independent and also learn french (he barely speaks, even in English; apart from No, although he understands everything.)

Well i am going to persevere as it will just be even worse for him trying to repeat this in a year's time for maternelle. But I just need some tips, recommendations of books to read (for him) to prepare DS a bit more and make it less traumatic for him to be seperated from me and enjoy nursery without me there.

thanks if you read this far! smile

Romilly70 Sun 04-Nov-12 16:22:01

Well we are on holiday at the moment; I don't know if it is called half-term, but 2 weeks of mainly rain, so I think DS will actually really enjoy creche when we go back.
Thanks very much for the messages of support

PetiteRaleuse Sat 03-Nov-12 19:44:55

That'sgreat news romilly, well done for persisting !

cheaspicks Thu 01-Nov-12 09:58:47

Glad to hear that your ds has started to settle, Romilly. Being there four afternoons a week will probably help him to settle in more quickly as well, and give you the break you so obviously need.

I understand your mixed feelings about whether it really is best for your ds to be at creche rather than with you, but your needs are important too and perhaps having time to yourself will give you more energy for the time you spend with your son.

Fingers crossed that there are no setbacks and that your other worries are sorted out soon as well smile.

fanny75 Wed 31-Oct-12 18:14:19

That's great news Romilly, you must be so happy now, and feel as if a whole load has been lifted. I am actually quite happy at the moment to wait until March for DS to try again as we've now finished work for the year and that means I've got DH to help out with the entertaining. I have been imposing on an (English) friend too, who has had DS for an hour or so a couple of times a week. He has no problem being with her, so I do think the language must be part of the issue, altho he says 'merci' and understands 'au revoir'. Who knows what goes on in their little brains! I think I shall try and arrange some 'playdates' too with some children who are at the garderie so at least when March comes DS will know someone there.

Its really great news smile

Romilly70 Tue 30-Oct-12 13:23:13

fanny i just read your other thread on bilingualism.
DS's distress, as i have uncovered, is due to seperation anxiety and perhaps a lack of sense of structure & routine as we travel so much and DP and i are currently living in seperate places

Amelie spoke to the educatrice at the creche and I have been speaking to the psychologist at the PMI ( t^Protection Maternelle Infantile^) and the clinginess is probably because I am the only constant DS knows. I think this is lso contributing to his language delay - but that it is a whole other thread...

Hang in there, because a few weeks ago I was really at the end of my tether but he seems to have a turned a corner in the last week or so.

Romilly70 Tue 30-Oct-12 07:48:19

Hi, I'm back with good news!

DS has settled into the creche. We did continue with what we were doing, still half an hour, but about a week ago, DS stopped crying after about 10 minutes, but stayed all the time with Amelie, then we extended it to 45 minutes to an hour, then 1.5 hours. (I was in the corridor all this time, so as far as DS was concerned, I had left). So i would agree with natation's quote " children need to associate coming into the setting with playing or being with their key person "

Because now he plays quite happily on his own and if he needs anything he goes to Amelie. So yesterday, during his time at the creche i managed to pop out for a walk. Amelie changed his nappy too, which she said was good; he was very accepting of something which is very intimate.

Also Amelie said that he can come for 4 afternoons per week as there is extra space as another child didn't take it up. I was a bit sad at the thought, but actually it is only about 2.5 hours away from him, which means i can finally get on with some other stuff and i know that he is happy and well cared for.

natation Sun 14-Oct-12 15:40:03

Both of these creches sound like they are failing to understand a child's needs to transfer the need for a strong connection between mum/dad and child to between the carer and child. Here's a quote from Penni Tassoni who is probably the best known writer on Early Years Foundation Stage (0-5 curriculum) in England and Wales.

The key person must ‘step forwards’ to get to know the child, while
the parents or current carer should take a slight ‘step
backwards’ to allow this to happen. It is often worth
explaining this to parents, so that when they bring the
child to you they know what they need to do. I also
believe that children need to associate coming into
the setting with playing or being with their key person
rather than coming to the conclusion that this is a place
‘where I play with mummy or daddy’.

fanny75 Thu 11-Oct-12 13:56:33

My goodness, this is sooooo similar to my situation. I did post a thread on the bilingual bit as I thought it was perhaps the language, but as the posters to that thread said it wasn't that. Our DS is 21 months and started going to the garderie in Sept. His first visit was for an hour when I stayed with him just sitting, not even playing with him, and everything was fine, so the next time was for 30 mins, which started off ok, and then just got worse with him crying all the time. But we all persevered, and eventually we got up to 2 hours. But then it all gone massively downhill, back to one hour, and then today only 30 mins and the directorice has said he's too young and to try again in March!! I feel a little like a failure. And I was really really looking forward to some time to myself. I did ask if there was a mothers & toddlers group, but it appears they've all closed down!! yay! So, roll on March! And in the meantime I shall search for something we can do to help his socialising and to help realise that he doesn't need his parents to be with him all the time. Good luck Romilly, whatever you end up doing smile

natation Fri 05-Oct-12 17:39:22

I think if you continue along the route of staying long periods and your son getting 10 or 15 minutes only without you and crying the whole time, then I think you'll both end up traumatised. 90 minutes, is that really all you can get in time at a creche? You could get perhaps more than 90 minutes on your own in the evenings, once your son is asleep. I do hope you're not paying for the settling in period. I'd be looking for another creche or a childminder by now who can give you a longer period away and where your son can do something constructive with his time in a setting.

Frakiosaurus Fri 05-Oct-12 11:42:56

I don't think it's you who is being criticised, it's the system which isn't working and other posters are trying to help you find a way around it.

The first crèche DS tried (in France) was pretty much as you described. I felt the settling in process was confusing, the timings were bizarre and he hated it. Every day he cried and twice I had to pick him up. In the end we left there because both he and I had bad associations with the place. We now have a lovely alternative. Is that an option for you?

Armed with this experience you should be able to choose a settling strategy and stock to it.

I'd also say that if he's only going when there is 1 member of staff for a largish number of children who've just woken and are full of beans - and he's not used to being in a group - that may be difficult too. Perhaps a smaller setting, like an ass. mat. may be better.

Romilly70 Fri 05-Oct-12 09:48:22

natation All the children nap from 13.30 to 15h, so i can't leave him as Amelie is with the sleeping children. The earliest i can bring him is 3pm when Amelie is available.

I can't last another year without having DS in some sort of organised childcare, because believe me, it will be me who is traumatised by the time he is 3.

I don't think i am going to post any more on this thread as much as i appreciate the posts and advice, I do feel like i am repeating myself and being somewhat criticised. This is hard enough as it is. I am going to phone Amelie now and discuss what we do next week.

Hopefully in a week or 2, we will have some progress and DS will be settled. i will let you know then.

natation Fri 05-Oct-12 07:01:04

Next year your son will be one year older, one year maturer with more abilities to understand the world around him. If you are moivated as you say by preparing your son for 3 hours at maternelle in a year's time, by leaving him now, why traumatise him and yourself now with this long drawn out "settling in". How do you know that your son will react badly in a year's time at maternelle, he might be fine? But what is obvious by what you write is he's not fine now.

Samsmlaidh describes pretty much the experience I had with all of our children when they started at a pre-school aged 2, it's also how I've witnessed in further child care settings and how it's done in the creche where I'm at now (except the 30 minute stay is 2 hours).

If you can leave your son for only 1.5 hours, then leave him for that long, but you say in your original post that it's a 3 hour session from 13.30 to 16.30 so why can't you leave your son for the 3 hours?

SamSmalaidh Thu 04-Oct-12 22:35:29

OK, I will say straight off that I have no experience of the French system but this prolonged and torturous settling in period seems mad! Surely it just confuses the children about whether mummy stays or goes, they're on edge knowing you might leave at any time?

DS's nursery had a very simple process - first visit you go together and stay for an hour, meet the staff etc. Second visit you go in for 5-10 minutes, get the child settled playing with something and then leave for half an hour-an hour. Third visit you hand the child over to their key person, say goodbye, and come back after a couple of hours. 4th day they do their whole 4 hour session.

Some children cry and the staff encourage parents to do a quick, cheerful handover at the door and promise to be back after lunch and go. Within a few sessions everyone is happy, children know where they stand, mummies can't stay at nursery but they always come back after lunch.

Romilly70 Thu 04-Oct-12 22:18:51

DP is working flat out to literally put a roof over our heads!
however he did have DS on sunday night which meant i could catch up with cooking / cleaning / sleep mumsnetting

Also my Dad has come over from the UK for a few days to help as i was getting desperate, so i definitely cannot complain about lack of help at the moment. So am using the renewed energy to get DS settled sleep wise and in creche

PetiteRaleuse Thu 04-Oct-12 21:57:35

You'll get there OP and once you can leave him for a couple of hours you will start to feel much better about things. Toddlers need to learn that mummy can go away for a few hours but she will always come back - if you keep repeating that he will understand. They understand a lot more than we give them credit for smile

He will soon realise that creche is loads of fun.

In the meantime, is there any way your DH can have a little more time with you not working on the farm so that you can have more of a break?

Romilly70 Thu 04-Oct-12 21:23:36

discrete I say that I have DS with me 24 hours a day because DP lives at the farm and has done for 4 months, apart from one day a week when he comes back at the weekend.

(DS has not been a great sleeper and with DP having to do manual work at the farm & needing his, it seemed naturally fair that i took the larger share of the childcare as i have (just about) managed on interrupted sleep every night since DS was born.)

DS can only get to sleep with me and as i said earlier, because of the gite next door, it was has been easier to keep him in bed with me rather than having him cry / do sleep training.

The point of the creche is that i have really been reaching the end of my tether in coping with him by myself. Even at the farm, DS is still ultimately my responsibility whilst DP is working; there is no switching off being vigilant with a toddler on a building site!!

I really do appreciate everyone's input, but i guess we can all just speak from our own experiences and point of view.

natation i do agree that DS needs longer to settle, but the maximum possible time i can leave him is 1.5 hours as the other children sleep from 13.30 to 15h, which is when Amelie tells me to bring him.

I've not done this before and i am taking advice from Amelie and the other ladies i am trusting my child with. At the moment, I am not getting the break, but if it takes x number of days or weeks to settle DS, I am happy to spend the time because next year, i think he really would be traumatised if i were to drop him off at maternelle for 3 hours and he had not grown accustomed to being apart from me.

discrete Thu 04-Oct-12 21:10:18

Sorry, you said in your OP

I need him to settle as he is way too attached to me

That was what I was reacting to. He isn't too attached to you, he is as attached to you as he needs to be.

If you ds is with you on the building site, I don't understand why you say you have him 24 hours a day by yourself?

Romilly70 Thu 04-Oct-12 21:08:26

Grey Elephant We did start his way where i was there for an hour - 2 hours with DS. (There was none of the questioning of mummy being allowed to leave.) Then i would leave for about 10 minutes; he would stay with Amelie until i came back.

However the staff decided it was too confusing for him, as he stays with me at the mother & toddler group and he needed to understand that the creche is a place where mummy doesn't stay.

It really is hard know what is the right thing to do for DS.... sad

natation Thu 04-Oct-12 21:07:59

It seems a bit contradictory, if you wish to have time for yourself, well half an hour gives you no time at all, surely you get half an hour at night. I've been working with under 5s for several years, it's far easier long run to have a settling in time long enough for a child to settle, for children who cry more than average, half and hour is I doubt not going to be enough time. Our usual first day children are left for up to 2 hours, if they are fine, the next time they come, they do the full 4 hours. Every single time a parent has taken their time in leaving and has turned up early, like giving a child less than an hour, not only has it been hard on the child left but also on the other children who have to witness a parent NOT leaving, then turning up unexpectedly at a different time to all of the other parents. Maybe this is not the way it's done at this creche, but it seems from what you described quite a traumatic way of separating - a longer time might seem worse, but in the long run is far more likely to suceed and far quicker too. Try looking at it like this, our son needs to feel secure with Amelie, knowing you'll come back every time, do you think 30 minutes is enough time with another care-giver to build up a relationship, when they are distressed?

I think what discrete is saying that parents have needs and children too. Whose need is greater? Whose needs can wait? Y

Romilly70 Thu 04-Oct-12 20:53:23

natation I feel that I do need to just leave him for at least half an hour, DP thinks this too. I am however torn, because I also have confidence in the creche staff's approach. They are all so lovely and i know some of the other children & their mums from the mother & toddler group and after some tears from a few, all have settled

discrete DS does all the things you have described your DC's doing. He has his tractor and trailer, toy wheelbarrows etc at the farm and happily follows DP round the site too and plays in the sand, digs the garden etc

I explained in my post of Sun 30-Sep-12 18:07:25 why i was keen for him to have a place at a creche.

I am however a bit confused about your point as to who and how anyone is being disrespectful of his feelings...?!

GreyElephant Thu 04-Oct-12 20:42:43

My DD started Jardin d'enfants at 2.5. One morning session a week initially, lasting 3 hours. After a month she went 2 morning sessions, after 2 months 3 morning sessions etc. There were 8 kids approx with one teacher/carer.

So DD started day 1 and after 10 mins i left her. No problems. Day 2 same thing. Day 3 i received a harrassed phone call after 20 mins. DD was crying and i had to come immediatly. The teacher reinforced the rule - all parents have to stay until the kids are happy for them to leave, knowing they will not be back until the end of the morning. No assistance at all from the teacher with distracton techniques, no " i'm off to the bathroom for 5 minutes". It was simply "little Grey Elephant, can Mummy go home now and leave you to play until hometime?". If DD said no then i had to stay. No debating allowed. I would pose the question every 20 minutes or so.

So for 6 bloody weeks i sat there all morning either playing with her or watching her play. Until one morning she turned around to me after 10 minutes and said "Mummy you go home now, i play with x". Bingo. Never had a single problem with leaving her since. 6 months later still no probs what so ever. It takes me a couple of minutes to drop her off, thats all. She LOVES it and she hardly speaks any French and non of the other kids speak a word of English.

Maybe try this technique?

discrete Thu 04-Oct-12 20:33:18

This may sound completely off the wall, but have you considered doing things differently?

We are also renovating a farm in France, and have been since before the dc were born.

Ever since they were tiny, they have been running around on the building site with us, or sitting in a carrier before they could run around.

They are used to it, and love to 'help' by filling buckets of sand, fetching and carrying and doing small jobs around the place. Could you not take your ds to the building site with you and dh and have him participate a bit more in your project?

Also and this is the only thing I will criticise you for (I promise) please don't say your son it too attached to you. I know the french use it as a catchphrase but it is soooo disrespectful of your son's needs and feelings. He is not too attached to you, he is as attached as he needs to be. Of course you have needs too and sometimes they must override his, which is normal, but don't be dismissive of his feelings.

natation Thu 04-Oct-12 20:19:46

I'd say either wait till he is older, or leave him for long enough he will finally enjoy being at the creche, that means a minimum of one hour, preferably two hours. I don't think half way will work, to be honest or building it up slowly.

It's also pretty normal for children aged 1 to 3 years who have spent 9 hours in creche and never cried the entire time to start crying the minute they see their parents return, what is important is how they are before you arrive and they see you.

Romilly70 Thu 04-Oct-12 19:35:19

Hi There,
thanks for the feedback.
We went today and DS started crying the minute saw Amelie, so she said to me, "you may as well leave now, as he knows you are going" (she said it nicely!!) so i did and she cuddled him as i went off.
He was still crying when i came back, alternating between running to the gate and running to Amelie.

I agree, it does feel like tearing a plaster off slowly.
However, much as i would like some free time to myself, i don't want to traumatise DS. I guess taking it slowly may be the halfway house between not sending him and going "cold turkey" and leaving him for an hour. I don;t know. i will speak to Amelie on tuesday when he next goes and see what she thinks. I will see whether 30mins is a possibility.

Although my concern is that he has no concept of time and will think i've gone for good, i think i will just have to build it up slowly.

cheaspicks Thu 04-Oct-12 13:27:43

I agree completely with natation. Try saying goodbye at the door and leave him for a minimum of 30 mins, preferably one hour by the second time.

He knows and likes the place, he knows Amelie (and it is her job to distract him out of missing you). It's completely normal that he would prefer you to stay and enjoy the creche with him, but you have to show him that that's not possible.

I was dong exactly the same btw, going in for 10-15 mins to settle dd and then trying to leave. The kindergarten staff gently insisted I stop doing that, and actually it was much more of an issue for me than for dd. Let's face it, if Amelie is going to have to peel your ds off you, then it doesn't matter whether you've spent 10mins playing happily first!

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