Preparing your child for nursery or school

Preparing for your child to go to nursery or school can be a very emotional time for lots of parents. Your child is growing up, and they are going into new and unfamiliar surroundings; spending more time away from you. If you have a child with a visible difference this can be an additional challenge. You might be worried as your child gets older that they will start to notice that they don’t look like their peers, or that other children might make comments. 

It is helpful for the school staff to be aware of and understand your child’s condition – this way they will have a better understanding of the situation and know how to support your child. They also need to know what to say or do when somebody stares, makes a comment or asks a question about your child’s appearance. It is essential that staff members know how to handle curiosity from other children, other parents and new staff members to support your child in taking part in social and school activities, without their difference becoming the main focus of attention. 

Choosing a nursery or school

When you are choosing your child’s nursery or school you may want to ask specific questions about things like pastoral support, or how they manage bullying and interpersonal relationships between the children, or how they talk about difference. Some schools now have friendship benches where children can sit if they don’t have someone to play with. Lots of schools use various techniques to encourage children to connect and learn about difference in an accepting way.

Setting up a meeting with your child’s new school

Contact the person who will be responsible for looking after your child (this may be the manager of the nursery or nursery nurse, a keyworker, teacher, inclusion officer, SENCO or the head teacher) and request a meeting well before your child starts school. This allows the school enough time to make the necessary preparations.

It can help to share the following information:

  • The name of your child’s condition and how it affects them
  • Your child’s likes, strengths and resources, as well as examples of their achievements
  • Any medical or functional needs that your child has
  • Any additional or learning needs that your child has
  • Examples of how you explain your child’s difference if people are curious or make a comment (e.g. “Marcy’s skin is red and itchy. It’s called eczema. You can’t catch it”)

It can also help to ask the following questions:

  • How do the teachers plan to deal with any curiosity about your child’s appearance?
  • How will they deal with teasing and bullying?
  • Do they have experience of supporting a child who has a disfigurement? How has this child settled in?
  • How do they encourage friendliness and inclusion?
  • Can the school arrange for a special educational needs assessment if required?
  • How will the school keep you informed about your child’s progress?
  • Would the school consider some specialist in-service training to support their staff work with a child who has a visible difference?

You might find it helpful to look at our Information to give a nursery or school which can be used with professionals. Your child can also read our Preparing for school information or you could work through it with them.

Making friends and fitting in at school

Getting to know one another and making friends begins with looking and being looked at. Curiosity and looking is natural when someone new arrives – and we look more and for longer when someone’s appearance is different. The other children at your child’s nursery or school are likely to look carefully, perhaps with surprise and interest at your child. Some younger children may reach out to touch your child’s distinctive mark or feature. Others may ask a question or they might look away because they are not sure how to respond. If these expressions of interest and visual contact are discouraged, your child is at risk of finding it harder in the long run to join in and make friends. Help your child to understand that if a small child is staring or asking a question they are not being rude, but curious.

You might find it helpful to read our children’s self help information with your child, explaining how other people might react and how to manage others reactions such as staring, comments or questions.

Information to give a nursery or school

Read

Handling questions

Read

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