Aug. 23, 2021

Ask Margaret - Handling Tough School Drop-Offs

Many of us have peeled shrieking children’s arms from around our necks, handed them off to preschool teachers, then headed back to our cars for a good cry. Here’s how to make dropoffs a little easier– while taking comfort that this phase won't last.

When school drop-off is tough it can ruin the whole day. The feeling of walking away and leaving a sobbing kiddo at pre-school is just plain awful, but the reality is that most kids are happily playing 15 minutes later.

This week a listener asks:

Any tips for preschool drop off when kiddo gets shy/nervous and then refuses to go in? Our little one occasionally gave us a hard time at preschool drop offs pre-covid and with pre-k starting in a few weeks I want to have a whole tool box ready of things to try help those first few drop offs run smoothly.

There's no go-to solution for making drop-offs tear-free. This situation is more in the "observe and adapt" category because you have to see how it's going, what's wrong and which parts of it can be fixed.

The best thing to do about tough school drop-offs is to keep them in perspective. Remember that these events are not creating permanent emotional scars - rather they are phases where a child is working out their complicated feelings about separating from you.

Still there are some adjustments you can make to help make the morning drop off routine consistent:

  • make sure your child gets a good night sleep
  • get up early enough that the morning isn't chaotic and rushed (I know - it's hard - but it's worth it)
  • feed your child a good breakfast
  • create a consistent drop off routine

If you are doing all of these things and still struggling at drop-off, try working with your number one drop off ally - your child's teacher or daycare provider. Find out how long the tears are lasting after you leave (a teacher may be willing to text you to let you know when your kid is over their tears and enjoying their day) and strategize about how to make things run more smoothly (some kids may do well with a little extra time with mom or dad; some kids may need the "drop and dash" approach).

But most of all keep in mind that this too shall pass - your child is gaining important independence and you'll get through it too - we promise.

Margaret cites this article in this week's episode: Crying at Drop-Off

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