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Brenner, N. (1985). The Entry into Nursery School of a Boy with an Absent Father. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 8(4):283-293.

(1985). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 8(4):283-293

The Entry into Nursery School of a Boy with an Absent Father

Nancy Brenner

It is a tremendous step for a young child to separate from the familiar home environment, and especially his mother, to enter nursery school. It is a step which usually creates both anxiety and anger. Such reactions are expectable, and our new children in the nursery require opportunities to express these feelings. Sometimes we decide to verbalize these emotions for the child.

We attempt to ease the initial transition for both child and parent by having them visit the Nursery School together for one morning each week of the term prior to the child's actual entry. This gives us all a chance to become acquainted and to begin to establish some relationship and trust.

When the child officially enters the Nursery School, we ask the parent to stay at first. We then try to prepare the child for the forthcoming separation which initially will be for only a short time. Gradually the time is increased to a full morning (9 a.m. to noon); and when the child seems interested and ready we add on the lunchtime (noon to 12.30 p.m.) After this, again when the child seems ready, we add on the rest-period and afternoon (12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m.).

Even with such a gradual beginning, the separation is often quite painful, and it is common for the child's anxiety to manifest itself in the areas of toileting, eating or sleeping—all being areas of the child's life directly tied to the parent.

The transition from home to Nursery School, settling in to new routines, becoming acquainted with new adults and children, calls for support and understanding. The following account is one little boy's experience of this big and important step.

Bo was a dimunitive boy who captured the hearts of both children and adults within the Nursery School. He lived with his Italian mother and two teenage half-sisters. His Ghanaian father had been living in Africa and had decided to remain there permanently after a final visit to England. His decision was painful for Bo's mother and we were concerned as to what the future would bring for Bo's development without a father.


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