Substitute care for children

If both parents wish to, or have to, work, they need someone competent to look after their child. Whether they choose a child minder, a nanny or a day nursery, they must be sure that the people who are to care for their child are kind, sympathetic and preferably experienced. A nanny may be the best solution if finances permit, because the child can then stay at home among familiar possessions. He will also have a one-to-one relationship, important for emotional stability. A good child minder may also be suitable, provided she has only one or two other children to look after. Both nannies and minders should be interviewed in depth before being employed to ensure that their views on child rearing are similar to the parents’ and that they will offer the child adequate stimulation. A day nursery is often less satisfactory, because nursery staff seldom have the time to give a young child enough individual attention. However, if this is the only type of care available, parents should try to pick a nursery in which the staff are well trained and highly motivated. A safe nursery with lots of play materials, and one in which the children seem happy and busy, is usually a good one.

The pre-school child ‘Mum, where do I come from?’ is a typical question of a nursery child that has become aware that he or she is someone with an identity of its own, and now wants to know how ‘everything works’. A nursery child is strongly preoccupied with its own – and someone else’s – body, and worries about what could happen to it. It may be injured or it may die.

What does that mean; die? What does alive mean? Or: why don’t I have a penis? A nursery child literally wants to know everything and questions his parents silly. It devours all knowledge and there are no boundaries to its fantasy. The change to a primary school, where the child has to try and maintain itself in a large group and where there are many fixed rules, is still drastic, even though the child may already be familiar with a nursery school or kindergarten. But after the child is settled in, it may satisfy its want for knowledge to its heart’s content. The power of concentration increases rapidly, as well as the ability to accept and follow certain rules. Obvious is the social change which occurs at the nursery age. A three-year-old child operates mainly alone in his or her game. Infants start to play more in groups and attune. Maintaining oneself within a group and standing up for oneself may lead to a more aggressive or recalcitrant when there are ‘strangers’ present, the child often thinks it has to manifest itself additionally and has to stand up for itself. This may lead to harsh confrontations, which become increasingly more challenging to solve through diversion tactics.