t is quite normal for children to tear up and feel sad when saying goodbye to a parent at drop off. In fact, often children will grow out of this phase and then fall back into it when they become a bit older. Think about it through a child’s eyes:
- Infants have not yet established object permanence and do not understand that you are not disappearing forever.
- Toddlers commonly go through two emotional phases during the ages of one and two: stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. Both of these phases are represented by increased anxiety.
- Preschoolers are becoming more and more aware of the world around them and with this comes more emotional responses. They can easily worry about such separation from a parent.
No matter what age your child is, seeing them cry and having to leave them is difficult. Our initial instinct is to go back in one more time for a hug and see if that helps. Most times, it does not.
Here are some suggestions to help guide you and your child through these emotional phases:
- Develop a consistent routine. Routines help children feel secure because they then know what to expect.
- Keep your routine personal but brief. This may include getting your child’s coat hung up and reading one story before you go.
- Remind your child that you (or who will be picking them up) will be back and what the two of you can do later that evening together.
- Reflect that you have confidence in your child and his/her teachers. If you are emotional at their drop off, children will pick up on it.
- Have one goodbye moment – a hug and kiss – and then go. Continuing to hang around or return provides your child with false hope that maybe you aren’t leaving.
- Work out how your child’s teacher can best support you. Should she hold your child at the window or redirect him/her to a favorite toy?
It is not easy, but by following these steps, you are building confidence in your child, helping them to prepare for the transition and lessening the overall emotional time period. You will find over time, these sad goodbyes will be replaced with a smile.
Cynthia Parker, VP of Training & Curriculum M. Ed.