Easing day care separation

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 16, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

My 19-month-old son is having a hard time transitioning to his new school. He is used to a small class environment and having an abundance of one-on-one time with the teachers. He is eating and sleeping, but today was day 3 and the brakes came on at the door and he was peeled from my arms. I place him in the teacher's arms tell him it's OK and walk out. Any suggestions?

From: Tonya, Athens, TX

Hi Tonya,

There are two "rules" for parents for daycare drop-off: Don't drag it out, and always say goodbye.

Sounds like you are doing a good job on both counts. What also helps is having a ritual for the drop-off; that itself becomes a source of security for a child. Even though my son has just graduated from college, I can still remember how difficult drop-off was when he first started preschool! But teachers assured me that as soon as I left, he would become engaged in an art activity, so part of drop-off success depends on us, as parents, being able to trust that a teacher -- it helps if it's the same teacher each day -- is responsive to your child and helping to settle him or her. Having a goodbye ritual definitely makes it easier, but it might take a week or more to get that ritual established. Transition objects help, too: Give your child something of yours, especially something that has your perfume scent, and tell him, "Hold this is you miss me. It will help you." And it really will!

Readers, what are some of the rituals you developed with your child to ease the daycare separation?

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3 comments so far...
  1. When my son transitioned from his smaller infant room to his larger toddler room, it took a week for us to sort it out. I would let him walk into school, but when he started to veer into his previous infant room, I would have to steer him into the new room, at which point he would cling to both of my legs and start crying. The hardest part was for me to "give him up" to the teacher, because he didn't want her to hold him - it seemed to upset him even more. The next hardest part was for me to trust that my son would be ok once I left, and to believe that me staying there was just making it harder for him. After one week of going through this - and his sadness didn't really decrease progessively during that week, which I thought was weird - that following Monday, he ran into his classroom, said goodbye to me, and was fine. I agree with Barbara - make sure you say good bye, no matter how upset your son might be. And make sure you smile! Keep it positive, don't look worried - kids pick up on that at a very early age - stay calm as long as you are within his sight (you can cry when you get into your car!), and tell him it will be OK. Trust me, once he gets past this stage, he'll be a totally new kid, and as he's pushing you out the door, you'll be wondering where the days went when he wouldn't want you to leave.


    Posted by nmac8953 June 16, 10 08:45 AM
  1. It can be heartbreaking, but what I find helps is that the quicker you leave, the better since I'm repeatedly told that as soon as I pull out of the parking lot, my son acts just fine. It's like out of sight, out of mind. I find if I stay and play a bit at drop off it makes it worse because he thinks I'm part of the action and the feeling of abandonment is there. But if I don't follow him in the playground area or to where he's going in the room, then it's easier for me to have a quieter and less dramatic entrance without crying (both of us) and being clung to. It should get easier.

    Posted by Courtney June 16, 10 11:06 AM
  1. Well, a transition should also be made - it's too hard for any young child under 5 yrs old to be dropped off for a full day of child care day 1. It usually takes less time fora child to get used to a new center or family childcare home if you do it on a more gradual way - 4 hours the first 2 days, then staying through lunch for 2 more days, then staying through nap on the last day - that's only one week but it can make a huge difference to a child's transition! that way they aren't totally overwhelmed their first day - believe me, they'll remember that feeling of overwhelm and you'll see it at drop off on Day 2.

    And, yes, don't drag out the goodbye, always say goodbye, don't cry in front of your child, and call the teacher/director and speak with her/him once or twice each day to find out out how his day is going to reassure you.

    Posted by ct.dc June 17, 10 09:54 PM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. When my son transitioned from his smaller infant room to his larger toddler room, it took a week for us to sort it out. I would let him walk into school, but when he started to veer into his previous infant room, I would have to steer him into the new room, at which point he would cling to both of my legs and start crying. The hardest part was for me to "give him up" to the teacher, because he didn't want her to hold him - it seemed to upset him even more. The next hardest part was for me to trust that my son would be ok once I left, and to believe that me staying there was just making it harder for him. After one week of going through this - and his sadness didn't really decrease progessively during that week, which I thought was weird - that following Monday, he ran into his classroom, said goodbye to me, and was fine. I agree with Barbara - make sure you say good bye, no matter how upset your son might be. And make sure you smile! Keep it positive, don't look worried - kids pick up on that at a very early age - stay calm as long as you are within his sight (you can cry when you get into your car!), and tell him it will be OK. Trust me, once he gets past this stage, he'll be a totally new kid, and as he's pushing you out the door, you'll be wondering where the days went when he wouldn't want you to leave.


    Posted by nmac8953 June 16, 10 08:45 AM
  1. It can be heartbreaking, but what I find helps is that the quicker you leave, the better since I'm repeatedly told that as soon as I pull out of the parking lot, my son acts just fine. It's like out of sight, out of mind. I find if I stay and play a bit at drop off it makes it worse because he thinks I'm part of the action and the feeling of abandonment is there. But if I don't follow him in the playground area or to where he's going in the room, then it's easier for me to have a quieter and less dramatic entrance without crying (both of us) and being clung to. It should get easier.

    Posted by Courtney June 16, 10 11:06 AM
  1. Well, a transition should also be made - it's too hard for any young child under 5 yrs old to be dropped off for a full day of child care day 1. It usually takes less time fora child to get used to a new center or family childcare home if you do it on a more gradual way - 4 hours the first 2 days, then staying through lunch for 2 more days, then staying through nap on the last day - that's only one week but it can make a huge difference to a child's transition! that way they aren't totally overwhelmed their first day - believe me, they'll remember that feeling of overwhelm and you'll see it at drop off on Day 2.

    And, yes, don't drag out the goodbye, always say goodbye, don't cry in front of your child, and call the teacher/director and speak with her/him once or twice each day to find out out how his day is going to reassure you.

    Posted by ct.dc June 17, 10 09:54 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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