Dropping off your little one at preschool can be one overwhelming roller-coaster ride chalk full of tears, anxiety, and heartache. And I’m not just referring to how the kids feel! Morning drop-offs can be downright hellish for some families whose toddlers experience preschool separation anxiety.
Often, we picture the first few days of school as being the hardest ones in preschool drop-off history. However, there are many children that suffer this anxiety on a daily basis, regularly working themselves into a kicking, screaming, crying frenzy. A fit to end all fits. A show-stopping tantrum. Every. Single. Morning. It can feel like it will never, never end, but the good news is, there is indeed a light at the end of that ever-so-exhausting tunnel.
How to Help Kids Look Forward to Preschool Mornings
1) It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye:
Saying goodbye is always the toughest part. That’s why it’s important to make it as quick and seamless as possible. Give your kiddo a hug and a kiss (and a tickle, if that helps too!), tell them that you’ll be back soon, and then walk right out that door. Any lingering delays simply add to the inevitable anxiety they are experiencing.
2) In Teacher(s) We Trust:
Preschool teachers know the drill. They’ve seen and dealt with endless amounts of anxious, sobbing kids, and they know exactly how to help. So, let them do their thing. They have lots of tricks up their sleeves to help your little one calm down, and they will redirect their attention accordingly. Teachers aren’t only good at teaching, but they’re also excellent at giving comfort to sad little tikes. Some even hold advanced degrees in Hug-ology.
3) Establish a Morning Routine:
Did you know that preschoolers love routine? Morning routines give them something predictable to rely on. In doing so, they’re more likely to go to preschool in a better mood. Try coming up with something special once its time to say goodbye like a secret handshake, a silly joke or even a high-five. Whatever it may be, remember to keep that something special part of the routine.
4) Never Let Them See You Sweat:
Try not to let your preschooler see how much their separation anxiety is bothering you. It’s certainly hard for parents, but it’s vital that kids get smiles and encouragement as much as possible. As you’re helping them through the school door, talk to them, smile, bring up how much fun they’re going to have there.
5) NEVER Be Tardy for Pick-up:
Do not, repeat, DO NOT be late for pick up. Yes, it’s hard to always be on time, especially when it feels you always have to squeeze in that extra grocery run, vet appointment, pharmacy trip, or whatever other countless things mark your to-do list. But, no matter what, aim to pick up your child on time, or earlier if possible. Late pick-ups can cause a child even more anxiety than usual which can make dropping them off the next morning all that much harder.
6) Accept the Possibility of Regression:
Sometimes, just when you think that preschool separation anxiety “thing” is under control, along comes something else to deal with. Summer vacation or “flu season” can keep your child away from school for a while and – BAM! – you’re back to dreaded square one. Regression may not be fun whatsoever, but it is perfectly normal. This is likely to last a day or so, but luckily your child should go back to their happy little self at drop-off time rather quickly.
7) Point Out the Positives:
Nobody likes the idea of being “dropped” into the middle of a group of people they don’t know. So, if possible, point out some friendly faces in the classroom at drop-off. If your child doesn’t know anyone yet, then try to arrange a few playdates with some classmates to break the ice. Your child will be more likely to settle down and relax if they arrive in the mornings to see someone they recognize.
Honesty is the Best Policy
In the end, just be honest with your preschooler. Sit down and talk about what feelings they are experiencing and why. Perhaps there’s a reason aside from the usual separation anxiety, such as preschool bullying, that makes them so upset about drop-offs. Take this opportunity to explain why you want them to go to preschool, all the things they’ll learn from their teachers, and how much fun they are going to have with their friends. Whatever you do, don’t minimize their concerns or fears. Address them head on while assuring them that you will always, ALWAYS be there to pick them up at the end of the day once school is over.