Parenting: How to navigate starting pre-school during the pandemic

So, I hate to say it but summer is coming to a close and so is lock down. We've all been getting out there more in recent weeks or months but taking sensible precautions but the thought of my Little Inspiration starting preschool has been pushed to the far back of my mind. 

The entire shocker that has been this year has been made mildly more bearable knowing that my children were infants and I did not have to make the choice to keep sending them to a nursery during this difficult time (no judgment to anyone who chose to or had to) but with the Little Inspiration recently turning three, I now feel it is important for her to have the opportunity to socialise regularly and gain more educational stimulation than I can provide at home with a baby and a toddler to care for.

We had started some settling in sessions at a rural village preschool just before lockdown but had to stop after a few short sessions. It was as you'd expect...emotionally wrenching for me and her, with a few tears each time. For us then to have to stop after a few sessions may have left an impression on her. The Little Inspiration said each time she didn't want me to leave, or she didn't want to go and then of course, we didn't any more. I hope she doesn't think she did something wrong, or that saying that will result in us stopping again.

I have sensed through my community a lot of anxiety from parents; they both want and need kids to return to nursery or school, whilst simultaneously worrying about the implications and questioning if they are doing the right thing. Especially little ones who are just starting nursery or school, an already nerve wracking and emotional time feels even more scary and fraught with worry.

With it being pre-school, we of course have the option to decide not to send the Little Inspiration but then we're faced with whether its the right thing to keep her home and away from making friends. Will I be able to do enough to keep her learning in line with classmates she will have next year. She will already be one of the youngest in her year at just turned 4 and I don't want to disadvantage her, even though she is extremely bright for her young years.

I think like many others, we will be monitoring the situation and will have no hesitation pulling her out if there are any concerns. But agreeing what that point is will be difficult. As I say, its a small rural preschool but if there's even a sniff of a temperature going round, we're all going to be pulling our kids out of preschool. The winter is already notorious for sniffles and similar symptoms to Covid 19, so how will they get any consistency? We also don't want to subject them to testing if possible. 

Plus having a younger baby at home too, and grandparents who are shielding, I'm naturally cautious about bringing anything back to the rest of the family. With only a couple of weeks to go, I'm having some sleepless nights over it and I honestly go back and forth whether now is the right time, whether to wait a couple more weeks, or just leap into the unknown. 

The new Covid 19 procedures mean we can't go in during drop off and that concerns me, as how will I settle her in? I can't bear the thought of leaving and not seeing that's she happy. Also the staff, although lovely and very competent, have to try to social distance and that seems so unsympathetic to little ones who have already endured so much uncertainty. 

During this whole pandemic, we have tried not to burden our little ones with the details or anxieties of it. We've explained calmly and matter of factly that we're keeping certain family members safe and that we are video calling for now. Or we've stepped to one side for other people walking towards us, but still acknowledged them with a cheery hello and a quick chat, to show that people are not to be treated with suspicion. 

We have met up on a couple of play dates recently and not discouraged the little ones from holding hands or playing as they would - instead we have upped hand hygiene and taken measures as adults to keep our distance. The last thing I would want is for our little ones to be left with any anxiety about being near other humans when its the most natural thing in the world. How will preschools allow this close play with other children and keep them safe?

It's such a complex issue with everyone's circumstances being slightly different and this means there is no one size fits all solution. We have felt the disparity with friends and their children, that everyone is at very different comfort levels about coming out of lockdown, but most people realise that Covid is here to stay, at least for the near term and we have to learn to live with it. The adage 'time will tell' looms heavily on most of us.

How are you feeling about starting nursery and returning to school? Will you be sending them back?

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