Daycare and preschool is an option that many moms use for a variety of reasons. Some are returning to work after maternity leave. Other mothers are working from home and need the help, while still more just want to offer their children the opportunity to start learning in a school environment. Whatever the reason, beginning a preschool or daycare program can be a little scary for some children, but even scarier for some moms. Working in a school for many years, I found that there are a few things mothers can do to get their child off to daycare, with as little drama as possible.
Get an early start. Show up long before you need to be at the daycare or preschool just in case your child needs a few extra hugs and kisses before settling in. Mom may need some, too, or even just a few minutes in the car and a box full of tissues. I know the first day I dropped my daughters off at mother’s day out required a few minutes of cry time. You also don’t want to show up for work late because drop-off time was difficult.
Leave with love. Not just hugs and kisses and reassurances that you will return to pick your child up, but include a “lovey” in the leaving routine. This can be a stuffed animal or blanket or any other transitional object for when your child needs reassurance, both at drop off and throughout the day, like at naptime.
Don’t look back. Resist the urge to go back, linger or stand in the hallway. You child may see you and wonder why you are still there. This can start the whole process over again.
Avoid being sneaky. “Sneaking” out the door doesn’t help. It actually hurts. Children are unexpectedly frightened and worried because mom or dad is not there anymore.
Checking in and checking up. In day cares especially, parents may call and check in on their children to see how the day is going. It can help with your anxiety, making drop-off drama that much easier on you too. After all, if you are worried, anxious or scared at drop off, there is a good chance your child will be, too.
Perfect pick-ups. Knowing mom or dad is going to return to the school not only to pick them up but to pay attention to them can make drop off at daycare that much easier. Put the cell phone away and be sure to spend some time with hugs, kisses, checking in with the teacher, looking at papers or art and listening to what your child has to say about their day.
Don’t expect immediate results and do expect some “backsliding” especially after breaks, holidays or weekends. But after a few weeks, your child should actually learn to enjoy drop-off time and the activity that school can provide. If your drop-off daycare drama continues for a couple of months, it may be time to talk to your pediatrician about possible anxieties or emotional difficulties as well as time to look twice at your particular childcare situation. With a few weeks of support, love and encouragement, drop offs should go just dandy, for your child and for you.