The Drop-off Blues
For some children, getting dropped off somewhere and seeing their parent or caretaker leave is very difficult. Even children who have previously been happy to run off and play can sometimes start having hard drop-offs out of (seemingly) nowhere. It can be heart wrenching to leave when your child is crying for you. Here are some suggestions to make drop off easier.
-Talk about their feelings (and yours, too!)
If your child is old enough, during a calm time (so not during the actual drop-off), talk to your child about what is making them upset about drop off. Let them know that it makes you sad to have to leave them, too. Let them know that the way they are feeling is okay. Don’t just tell them to stop crying (they would if they could!), or tell them that they are too big to be crying, or that they are making you sad or angry.
-Explain why you have to leave them
It does not have to be a complicated explanation, but you can tell them that you have a job you have to do, (“Daddy’s job is to go to school and learn, just like you!” “Mommy’s job is to help people feel better.”) and that they also have a “job”, to learn and have fun with their friends
-Be Confident for the both of you
Let your child know that you know they can do this! Make it about being part of a team. You could try something like, “I know you’re sad when I have to go. I am sad to leave you, but we both can do this! I know it! I’m going to have a good day at work and you’re going to have a good day at school!”
-Start the day off right
Getting a good night’s sleep and starting the day as calmly as possible sets both children and their caregivers up for an easier day
-Develop a routine for starting the day
Routines will ensure that your child knows what to expect, which can help reduce anxiety. It doesn’t have to be long (as a matter of fact, it SHOULDN’T be long!), but it should be consistent. Maybe you and your child can come up with a secret handshake to do before you leave. You might sit down and read one book with them before you go. Maybe you give each other silly kisses. It can be anything that you can commit to regularly that your child enjoys.
If your child is old enough, they should help come up with the routine.
-Talk about the routine beforehand.
On the morning drive, remind your child of the routine. “When we get to school, Daddy will sign you in, we will hang up your bag, then I will give you two kisses and two high-fives, then Daddy has to go and you’re going to have a great day with your friends!”
-Once your routine is done, leave
Depending on how your child reacts, this might be easier said than done, but it is essential that you do not continue to stay, even if your child is upset. Hanging around only prolongs things and teaches your child that they can get you to stay longer if they put up a fight. Tell your child that you love them and will be back to see them later, then go. Your child’s teacher will take over from there.
-Try a transition object
Sometimes bringing a toy or stuffed animal might help your child feel better about drop-off. They might also have a special toy at school that can be part of your child’s drop-off routine. They might be happier about you leaving if they know they can play with the Thomas train in the classroom. They might also enjoy an activity, like looking at a book or drawing a picture. If you are bringing a toy from home, talk with your child’s teacher to make sure it is appropriate (toy weapons, for instance, are not allowed) and to make sure you are on the same page. Some classrooms have special days to bring toys from home, but if teachers know this will help your child transition, they can give your child a set amount of time to play with the toy before having them put in in their cubbie. Pictures of family members can be helpful, too.
-Brainstorm with your child’s teacher
Your child’s teacher can help by being part of the routine. They might make sure that special Thomas train is set aside in the morning, for instance, or they might read a book with your child after you leave. Additionally, if there is something going on at home that might be contributing to a difficult drop-off (if one parent is out of town, or if your child got to bed very late the night before, for instance), it is helpful to let the teacher know.
–Try to trust that they are okay!
Most kids calm down within a few minutes of their parents leaving and are happy as clams for the rest of the day. Feel free to ask your child’s teacher about it at pick-up, or even call (or ask the teacher to call you) later in the day if that helps ease your concern.
-Read books about characters who are going through the same thing
Here are a few suggestions:
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
The Night Before Preschool by Natasha Wing
I Love You All Day Long By Francesca Rusackas
Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes by James Dean
Some children struggle with drop off for several weeks. Do your best to stick to the routine you have put in place and give your child time to adjust.
We hope to see you all for Family Night on August 24th!