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How to help your toddler adapt to changes
Crèche life

How to help your toddler adapt to changes

by Merel MIEDEMA 2 min. 28.05.2022
Children might say one thing but what they really mean is that they find change difficult, says early childhood educator Merel Miedema
Your child’s feelings are valid, and letting them know that is an important part of parenting, says Merel Miedema
Your child’s feelings are valid, and letting them know that is an important part of parenting, says Merel Miedema
Photo credit: Lizenz CC

How many times have you heard your child say “Daddy, I don’t want to go to nursery, I want to stay at home” or “Mummy, I don’t want to go home, I want to stay in crèche and play with my friends”?

These seemingly contradictory statements probably sound familiar and may be confusing to deal with. On the one hand, toddlers are known for having mood swings and wanting to assert themselves, so you may be inclined to disregard these statements as simple rebellions against your parental authority.

But your child’s feelings are valid, and letting them know that is an important part of parenting. You might decide to let your child stay at home if he or she doesn’t want to go to nursery or delay leaving the crèche to go home at the end of the day if he or she wants to stay longer, whenever that is possible.

But are these statements really as contradictory as they appear? In fact, if we look more closely, another explanation is possible: your child is expressing a feeling they do not quite know how to put into words.

When we look at both situations, we can see they have a common denominator: change.

Although it sounds like your child is telling you they do not enjoy being at nursery, what they’re really saying is “I find change difficult”. Like so many people, your child is offering a solution (I want to stay where I am) rather than explaining a problem (I find change difficult).  

If you are a child of divorced parents, you might be able to identify. Of course, you love both parents and enjoy their company, but having to travel between houses is painful and uncomfortable. You wish you could stay where you are, because it is comfortable, no matter how nice the other option may be. And even if your parents are happily married, you will undoubtedly have been in similar situations in your life. In short, we can all relate to the need for things to stay the same. To feel safe, to not have to leave our comfort zone.

So how can you help children in these moments, show them you take them seriously, acknowledge their feelings, and help them express their trues feelings?

We come now to the ‘acknowledgement and giving boundaries’ phase of parenting: you tell your child: “I know it is difficult to leave because you are really happy where you are right now, but we need to go.”

And then, you put your money where your mouth is: you get them dressed and leave right away. You say what you mean, mean what you say. This might cause some drama in the short term, but the more you show your kids how reliable and truthful you are, the easier it will become for them to trust you to help them through these transitions. 

Merel Miedema is an early childhood educator in Amsterdam, where she works at one of the city’s oldest independent and green crèches.  

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