Earlier this year we had to deal with an issue. Something that was making our 3 year old girl unhappy and very very lonely. On paper it sounds silly and almost laughable, but when you’re the parent seeing your child miserable and unhappy it can cut you up.
In January our 3 year old started at a new nursery. This was a big change and she took a long time to adjust. It was awful leaving her screaming on the doorstep, looking through the window at pick to see her walking around the garden on her own, or stood looking on instead of joining in.
Every day she would tentatively ask “what are we doing today?”. I would brace myself for the inevitable crying and tantrums when we told her she was going to nursery. Often we would avoid the question until she was dressed and had breakfast. On her days off you could see the relief on her face that she was staying at home.
We spoke to the nursery teachers who said she was “fine, but very quiet”. She just didn’t seem to play with anyone and definitely wasn’t “fine”.
I felt like an awful mother forcing her to go. I stuck with it, all the time telling myself she would soon adjust. As the months past, so did our patience. We got so frustrated over these ongoing tantrums.
I talked to her about trying to just speak to one other child and join in a game. I said how I wanted her to be happy and have fun and play and make friends. I said I understood it was all new and different but that she had been going a while now and we couldn’t deal with these tantrums every.single.time. I think she had started playing relatively ok there but the dreadful drop offs had almost become a habit.
She told me she missed her friends at the childminder. She told me she already had a best friend Jess and seemed to think by making new friends Jess would no longer be her best friend and would be replaced.
That was the deal breaker. We had finally got deep into the crazy, illogical mind of a toddler.
Over the course of the next few weeks me and my husband both made time away from the twins to chat to her. We talked about having more than one friend. We showed her all of our friends and talked about how nice it was to play with a few different people. If one wasn’t there or was poorly, you could play with the others; and you could all play a big game together. I explained that her BFF was going to school and making other friends too but it didn’t mean they couldn’t meet up and play and have sleepovers together.
(We may have also bribed her with a toy of her choice if she got enough stickers each time she didn’t make a fuss going into nursery)
Most importantly I noticed a big change in how she started to settle and make friends. She would talk about the other children, she invited some of them to her 4th birthday party and now when I peer through the window before picking her up I see my smiley, friendly, bright little girl with her new friends.