I WANT ANOTHER FAMILY, MY BEDROOM LIGHT IS NOT WORKING, I DON’T HAVE MANY TOYS AND MAMAN’S BED IS NOW PINK. I WANT A BLUE HOUSE! (ÉMILE, 3 YEARS OLD)
It’s interesting how children tell us messages…that this new situation and the changes around them are possibly not working as much as they would like. Initially, when preparing the move, I was particularly conscious of the oldest two’s needs as they were able to express themselves, have discussions, ask questions. For the little one, we kept saying he will not remember our last house, it will be alright. A colleague of mine had said do not underestimate the little one’s needs when packing. She had experienced a move with young children and felt that the youngest had had a hard time adapting and was still recovering from it. I packed as much as I could within a limited frame of time. And yes I should have been wiser. We arrived in Australia with some toys, books and his special blanket, but not enough to keep the little one going. Luckily, technology can do wonders in providing some anchor points to him such as programs he knows and he is used to. His brother and sister have also needed to help in playing different games together. The garage, an empty space, with a high number of empty boxes, has been a great source of imaginative play. They have also played 40-40, hide and seek, and lots of games in the woods around the house. The problem is that 5 weeks of no television (with some devices but limited Wi-FI), sleeping on camp beds, with little around, it can be a long long time with young children…
Within that period of time, I also wanted to ensure that he settles at nursery so that when I am ready to go to work, ‘he is ok and I am ok’…Although he was used to a childcare setting, he has found settling in a new childcare setting very tricky. We have had lots of discussions together and with the ‘ladies’. We have had a lot of tears, and tears, and tantrums. It has been particularly challenging.
Yes we have gone shopping and bought him some toys along the way. I feel that although these have helped, these toys are not his, the ones that come from ‘home’ and perhaps lack familiarity and belonging.
On reflection, I should have been a little more sensitive to my packing in regards to our little one. The following would have helped:
- A bag of little figures/people and cars, furniture
- Books about moving
- A bag of lego/puzzles
- Some soft toys (these take a lot of room in suitcases, so they would need to be chosen carefully to only bring the significant ones)
My best buy has been an enormous ‘Scooby Doo’ teddy he found in a charity shop last week.
They are both about the same size. They have eaten, slept, sat on the sofa, cuddled, gone walking together. When he saw the teddy, he said he wanted to show it to his friends at nursery. Today, he went to nursery with ‘his friend’. He was given a little plane bag to go with his teddy (socks, toothbrush and put a few other things in it). After a long 8 weeks, he has finally gone to nursery without a tear, hooray! It has taken a while to find something that worked well to settle him. This strategy seemed to work very well, the following strategies have also been helpful:
- Talking to staff about his interests
- Talking with us about what he likes at nursery
- Talking with the ladies about an activity we did at home
- Communicative and positive transition times: morning and home times
- Transition times with family members i.e. brother and sister coming in to the nursery and talking about what he does there
- Bringing a toy from home to show his friends and the ladies (often a new toy we purchased as we had little)
- imaginative play about nursery and school, talking about characters having similar feelings, what that means, how it can be resolved, with siblings and parents
- Looking at pictures of him doing an activity in the nursery portfolio
- Mum and dad coming to play for a little bit at nursery
- Surprises at the end of the day such as choosing at the supermarket what he wants to eat for dinner
I have to admit that he has been playing up, demanding a lot of time, cuddles and showing some interesting behaviours such as experimenting with ‘wees’ and ‘poos’, hitting, biting and having many tantrums. One tantrum was on the high street, great stuff when you feel observed by everyone! Yes he is at that age, but he is also testing because he can, rules and routines have changed so he must feel he can change things too. It is hard because we have a rental house with not much in it and a lot to sort out so routines of bedtime, etc. have been a bit different. It has required a lot of adaptation from everyone (and it is not finished!) and he has felt that too. Respecting my rules and values, continuing to be firm with rules and repeating scripts have also worked. For example, ‘let’s go to nursery’ (not giving a choice such as ‘do you want to go to nursery’). He often replies ‘I don’t want to’. Every time, I will reply ‘Maman is going to work, lots of work to do, you know I love you and will come back at the end of the day to pick you up’. But ‘I don’t want to go to school’ and then I repeat the same script…and so on.
The little one is having amazing days, but we have some tears again. Ladies reassure me that he calms and settles quickly. As he is having amazing days, I have changed my script a little to highlight all the things he loves to do at nursery, such as ‘You will have a great day on the swing with Scooby Doo and play in the sand pit’, and reinforcing that I will have a boring day.
Routine is the same every morning, we say the same thing, we do the same thing (except on our days together). I try not to be too anxious and worried…It’s a process…
About Dr Pascale Paradis – Canadian of origin, from Quebec, in Mont-Joli, a rural area of Quebec, 7 hours drive from Montreal, Pascale lived 18 years in Scotland and England and now lives South of Melbourne in Australia, with her husband and three children. She has completed a degree in Psychology in Quebec, a Masters in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a Doctorate in Child, Adolescent and Educational Psychology at the Institute of Education, London, UK. Member of the British Psychological Society and registered with the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC) in the UK, she is a qualified Educational and Child Psychologist and worked in Essex as a trainee and qualified Educational Psychologist in different educational settings such as special, primary and secondary mainstream schools. Prior to training as an Educational Psychologist, Pascale worked in different childcare and educational settings, notably, summer camps, primary school and secondary schools, independent schools, further education colleges and childcare centres in Quebec, Scotland and England. She also worked for local authorities developing specialised education and services for children and families. Her husband works as an Engineer Manager in the marine signalisation industry.