Preventing First Day Tears: How to Make the Dreaded Drop-Off a Delight
Despite the fact that summer has just begun, a lot of families are already thinking about choosing a preschool and wondering how their child will fare in their new routine come September. Although three-fourths of young children throughout the U.S. participate in preschool programs, that doesn’t mean making the transition to the classroom is always an easy one. In fact, this initial adjustment period can be extremely challenging and emotionally charged for both preschoolers and their parents. For many, the morning drop-off can be the most difficult aspect of all.
Even if you’ve chosen a good preschool program with wonderfully caring teachers and staff members, you and your child still might experience anxiety, sadness, and confusion during morning drop-off. But with the right attitude and the right tips, you can set a positive precedent and make sure both you and your child feel comfortable and courageous when the moment finally comes. Here are just a few ways to minimize the chances of an emotional breakdown and to support your child during this pivotal period.
- Establish a Ritual: Children respond well to routine, so it’s good t create a tradition as part of your morning drop-off. Ensure that this ritual is consistent so that expectations are set and that you have a limit to work with. Without this, you may be inclined to stick around too long or make the situation more emotional than necessary. Whether you choose a high five, a big hug, a kiss on the forehead, or a secret hand gesture, you should choose something that feels natural and that holds meaning for and brings comfort to both of you.
- Talk it Through Beforehand: If your toddler doesn’t have any idea about what’s going to happen after drop-off, the entire scene will be chaotic. It’s a good idea to discuss everything that will occur in detail so that your child knows what to expect. You may even want to go over these points several times before school starts, as this can provide a bit of reassurance. Pay special attention to the cadence and tone you use, as expressing these ideas calmly and joyfully will allow your child to feel more at ease. When what you’ve discussed actually plays out in real time, you can remind them of these conversations.
- Acknowledge the Emotions: It can be tempting to dismiss your child’s feelings or concerns in the interest of avoiding a meltdown, but it’s actually a good idea to recognize what your child is trying to communicate. Usually, this is best done in the privacy of your home. Even during the process of choosing a preschool, you can start to have these conversations. Don’t be afraid to say, “I know how hard it is to say goodbye and I’m glad you’re sharing those feelings with me.” By acknowledging what your child is experiencing, they will feel heard and validated in a safe, supportive atmosphere.
- Keep it Short and Sweet: Choosing a preschool can sometimes be a drawn-out process, but saying your goodbyes shouldn’t be. You’ll want to refrain from making this part of the morning one that lasts forever. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge any fears or concerns with a positive spin, perform your ritual, and say your goodbyes. It’s certainly not easy, particularly if you’re already feeling emotional yourself. But remember that if your child knows you’re upset or they have the opportunity to cling to you, the drop-off could turn into an emotional scene before you know it. As long as you’re both well-prepared and you have faith in the qualified staff members there, it’s best to keep your goodbyes on the shorter side.
We all know that choosing a preschool that works for your family can be a real challenge. But after you’ve evaluated the local preschools for young children in your area, your work won’t be done. Once it’s time to get ready for school to begin, you’ll need to establish these routines and do your research to make sure your child has a positive experience. For more information on our programs, please contact us today.