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Advice please: nearly 3-year-old making herself vomit at nursery 'settling in' sessions

(9 Posts)
Mumsfret Tue 06-Sep-11 20:34:23

I expect this issue is discussed regularly on Mumsnet so please forgive if this is going over old ground (as every situation is ever so slightly different): -

I'm a SAH mother-of-two DDs: a nearly 3-year-old (34 months) and a 9-month-old. Before the 9-month-old was born I started the older DD (who, at the time, was nearly 2) at our local village nursery with a view to sending her a couple of mornings per week (to give me some 1-1 time with the new arrival and to start her off on a gentle, gradual process of pre-school socialisation). After an initial settling-in period, I left her there for two hours at most, once a week, and she seemed fine until about the fourth day. I got a call from the nurserythat day to say that she was really upset, crying and that she'd made herself vomit by sticking her fingers down her throat (unfortunately something that she is wont to do when feeling highly emotional/frustrated). A classic case of bad timing, in all likelihood, as 2-year-olds are (apparently and perhaps understandably) notoriously difficult to settle in nursery. DH and I decided to take her out and hold off for another year until she was older, more ready, and also more used to having her little sis around the place.

So, that year came and went, and now we are in the process of trying again, this time with a view to doing 2 days/week. She's much more able to communicate with and understand us now, is more interested in others of her own age, and we've spent a lot of time this summer preparing her mentally for "school". We point it out when passing and talk in positive terms about all the fun she'll have playing with the boys and girls, and we've read books and bought sticker books about starting school, etc. She seemed genuinely excited and keen to go.

This time round, the keyworker at the nursery (same nursery as before, but different room) has been much more prescriptive about their settling-in procedures. I wasn't sure whether this was the result of a new manager, a different key worker, the older agegroup, or the fact that my card was marked (as a pain-in-the-arse mother who hangs around instead of dropping her child off and leaving promptly - they seem to favour the 'drop 'em & leave' approach to settle-in sessions!). Anyway, this morning, regrettably against my better instincts, i went along with their suggestion to say goodbye promptly and tell DD that I'd be back to pick her up in a short while (2 hours to be precise). She was a little subdued but seemed fine and waved goodbye to me (and DD#2) from the window. After an hour I phoned to see how she was getting on and was told that she'd become pretty upset and made herself sick again but that they were dealing with it and not to worry, etc. I went back to get her immediately. She was calmer (though still visibly quite upset), chatting, occasionally smiling, and painting with one of the assistants. I took her home and she's steadfastly avoided talking about her experience, save for making it quite clear that she does not want to go back to school.

I'd really appreciate some wisdom/advice on what to do next! Is she not ready yet? Is it worth asking the nursery if we can adopt more of a gradual approach to settling-in? Or do I do the same again next week and hope for the best? Do any of you have experience of a toddler making herself sick when distressed or frustrated? Is this something I should be worried about or is it a phase that will pass (she started doing it on longish car journeys to indicate that she was fed-up but has since done it only when really upset or anxious). Any advice/wisdom/experience appreciated (if you're still reading - sorry for long post).

2ddornot2dd Tue 06-Sep-11 22:07:28

My DD cried until she was sick on her first day at playgroup, but they didn't tell me until I picked her up (three hours later) and in retrospect I am really glad that I didn't know. Mine doesn't actually stick her fingers down her throat, just winds herself up until she is sick (and she has done this since she was a tiny baby).It does begin with a genuine hurt, but she then escalates it.

I think it is attention seeking. You have to give her attention as you need to change her clothes etc, so it is an effective attention seeker, but you just need to ignore it. I actually shout at DD1 now if I think she is going to make herself sick and she often pulls herself together a bit, as she knows I will just put her in the bathroom until I have cleared up the vomit. Otherwise I cuddle her until she stops crying.

I think you just need to let nursery find their own way of dealing with her. She is clearly an intelligent girl, and is finding a way to get control over her environment. When she is used to going to nursery she will stop making herself vomit, but if she finds that she can get her own way by making herself sick she will keep doing it.

I do understand how stressful it is, but I think you are right to give her the opportunity to settle in nursery so that she has taken the first steps towards settling at school in a year or two. I have a similar age gap, and stuck with sending DD1 to playgroup before DD2 was born. (DD1 was only just 2 at the time) I think it would have been easier for her to leave it longer, as you have, but in the end sending her to playgroup is the best thing we have ever done for her.

You have told her that she is going to school, and she is excited about going. Keep focusing on the positive with her, she was enjoying the painting, she will make lots of friends etc and encourage her to have another go. Then stick to your arrangement. If you say you will be back in two hours, make it two hours and not one, or say you will be back at snacktime or whatever, so she understands some of the structure of her nursery.

I'm sorry it's such a long reply, but I'm sure you and your daughter will be fine if you stick with it - Other kids just have different attention seekers - some wet themselves, some shout, some hit other kids, some bang their heads on walls, and some do all of the above. Whatever your kid is doing always seems like the worst thing in the world, and of course your daughter is upset at not being with her lovely mummy all day, but she will soon settle down if you give her a chance. Good luck

Mumsfret Wed 07-Sep-11 15:41:27

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and respond so thoughtfully, 2dd. I will take your advice on board and try not to worry so much. I suspect you may well be right about the attention-seeking aspect of the vomiting but it's a good technique. It's hard not to react! I will put myself in the hands of the nursery, see how it goes over the next few weeks, and reassess the situation after that.

Once again, many thanks. It's a relief to know that my daughter is not the only one who does this sort of thing (sometimes feels like all the other kids are totally normal and well-adjusted and we're just, well, different - I'm sure that's not the case!).

2ddornot2dd Wed 07-Sep-11 20:57:50

I really worried after I went to bed last night that I had been too harsh with you. My DD1 is starting school on Monday, and I am dreading because I remember how hard it is, and am worried it will start all over again. DH on the other hand thinks that playgroup was the first step towards independence that she took, and in many ways it has been the making of her.

Make sure you give her lots of one to one time when she comes home - maybe keep DD2 awake while she is out so she will be desperate for a nap and will go to sleep on the way home so that the two of you can have a proper chat.

By the way, my DD now predominately attention seeks by hitting her little sister. That's quite hard to ignore too, but when she is not with me/DH she is an absolute angel. (One of the ladies at playgroup actually said "it's like there's an angel there with DD1"). Nobody every said that being a mother would be easy, and I'm sure you will manage this too. Take Care.

CheekyGirl Mon 19-Sep-11 14:02:58

Hi, I can appreciate that this must be really distressing for all of you. I wonder whether, though, by going to collect her immediately after the vomiting, you are unwittingly sending her a message that she needs 'rescuing' from nursery, and that if she vomits, you'll come and get her.

Maybe, if she does it again, you could stay with her at the nursery, reinforcing the fact that it's fun there, for a while before taking her home. Both you and the nursery seem to understand that she is not vomiting due to illness.

It may well be worth negotiating a more gradual settling in period. At my son's nursery, I would go and play with him for a while, then 'go and sort out some important paperwork' (ie. pop and have a cup of tea in the cafe down the road) for a while then return and play there with him for a while before home. Over several sessions, I would gradually extend the 'paperwork sorting' time and reduce the 'playing with him' time. This was all completely painless for both of us.

Good luck!

luck1 Wed 21-Sep-11 10:21:21

My 3year old make her self thow up in the morning before she go to pre school. She has recently started to go and make her self cry and up set and then thow up. Has anyone had same experience. It makes me very worried.

dribbleface Wed 21-Sep-11 10:32:08


My DS has never really settled in nursery, he goes as i work there, but although doesn't cry on leaving for long anymore, i can tell he enjoys it but still protests a bit on way.

Just started at our local pre-school, first day he cried alot and they asked me to go back after snack (not before so that he realised that mummy didn't come till after that time), and since then he hasn't looked back at all. I am shocked that he seems so happy, so maybe its the environment she doesn't like?

Having said that i have worked with children that took a few months to settle and never looked back, perhaos persevere for a bit. Are her two days spaced out or together?

menopausemum Wed 21-Sep-11 22:03:14

Hi, I'm a bit concerned about what is being described as settling in. The process is supposed to be a gradual handing over of care. It should start with you staying with the child for the whole time and gradually leaving her for increasing lengths of time. This way the child gets to know the setting/adults/children/routines with Mum there to support and then gradually does the things on her own with support from her key person. Just leaving the child on her own at nursery for initially short periods will not work and is not 'settling in' as understood by experienced early years practitioners. I should consider starting a genuine settling in with your child now with a view to it taking at least three visits with you staying before leaving her for a very sh ort time, particularly as she has become so upset already. I know some children are happy to be left immediately and thats great for them and their parents but there are many like yours who need more support.

luck1 Thu 22-Sep-11 13:52:34

She gets upset and vomit on her way and then she is fine after I dropped her at the preschool. She enjoys the time there and it's just the matter of getting her there. I have heard this is kind of nervous and they will get used to it in a period of time

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