The dreaded drop-off in preschool years!
We all stress the saying goodbye at school drop-off, and no, the disappearance trick isn’t the best way, sorry. Here are a few ideas I’ve seen work over my 13 years in early childhood classrooms.
Yes, it’s heartbreaking to see your child crying and the holding on as if your dropping them off to the big bad wolf, but we all seem to forget we must teach our children the skill of saying goodbye. No one is born knowing how to say goodbye, this is something they will have to learn. This skill is tough, but it will help them find self-confidence in the process.
Here are 5 things to do from the very first day to help with learning goodbye, make it less scary, decrease separation anxiety, and making goodbye a normal part of their day.
First, prepare your child on what they can expect.
Tell them the steps on how you will drop them off in order. Pick a spot by the door like a tile square, or line as your marker. This is where you will say your daily goodbye. Stay consistent! It will help your child learn what to expect and decrease any separation anxiety. Please refrain from entering the room for the first month because this will help the child make the environment theirs. Children tend to become more anxious once you are in their environment knowing you will leave any minute. Your child will start to show you everything and everyone in the classroom as this is an attempt to avoid your departing and causing distress.
Second, come up with your goodbye routine.
Maybe your routine consists of a hug, one kiss, a high five, or a fun handshake, and please do it every day. Running late or having a phone call come in is no excuse! Still, find the time to stick to your routine. It will teach your child confidence in what you say you’ll do
Third, please allow them to put their belongings away.
They are very capable and even if they can’t make it just right on their very cute labeled hook, I promise you their teacher will get their lunchbox in the correct cubby and their bag hung in the right spot. But allowing them to do it gives them a sense of responsibility and respect for their belonging plus an activity to focus on instead of focusing on your departure.
Fourth, when you say goodbye tell your child the activity you will pick them up after.
Do not tell your child a time, because let’s be honest, most preschoolers have no comprehension of time and when your child asks 20 times “when is mommy/daddy coming” the teacher can repeat “mom/dad said after reading circle.” This will allow the child to connect their activity to your arrival and build trust in the goodbye process and the teacher and it will be a win for everyone.
Fifth, and most important, fake it til you make it!
I always would tell my parents the child is looking at you for confirmation that you have confidence in them and their surroundings. Smile and hold back the tears! Show them you are happy and trust them. If you’re concerned about how they are transitioning, call the office and have them check-in.
Yes, I know it’s hard, but remember, learning goodbye is a skill and lesson that takes time. Every child is different, but eventually they all learn it. Keep it fun, creative, short and sweet, and most of all stay consistent! I hope you all have a great school year with big smiles.