To and Fro

To and fro PIP[

Practitioners should acknowledge the feelings that separation can trigger in a young child, a parent and themselves, says Anne O’Connor…

Seb and his mother arrive at nursery. Although he can handle being away from his mother for short periods, he is still finding the transition from home to the setting quite traumatic. He cries when mum has to leave him, but allows the practitioner to take him from her and give him a cuddle even as he reaches out for mum. Later, when mum arrives to pick him up, he is a bit tearful at first and clearly relieved that she is back. But he isn’t clingy and recovers quickly. He is keen to tell mum about his day and runs off to show her something. He then runs joyfully back to mum and snuggles up to her. Giving her a kiss, he tells mum he missed her.


1:    In their book People Under Three, Elinor Goldschmied and Sonia Jackson wrote ‘we can never remind ourselves too often that a child, particularly a very young and almost totally dependent one, is the only person in the nursery who cannot understand why he is there’. (Goldschmied & Jackson 1994 :37) Even though Seb has had enough reassuring experiences to know that his mother will be back later to collect him, he is still distressed and the transition process from one carer to another is traumatic for him. It is probably traumatic for his mother, too, as she hears his cries and sees his distress. Both of them benefit from the presence of a sensitive practitioner to soothe and understand their anxieties and concerns. What they don’t need is someone who tells them they don’t need to be sad or miserable or uses distraction to ‘fix’ the child’s distress. Having their feelings and fears acknowledged, honoured and accepted is an important part of the transition process for the child, and valuable for emotional health and well-being in the longer term…


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