The dreaded daycare drop off. Mornings are rough for working parents. You’re tired, under-caffeinated, your kid didn’t want to get out of bed, and you are rushing to work. However, you have one important step: you still need to drop your child off at daycare. It’s the most dreaded part of your morning (besides perhaps waking up). Maybe, you just know the tears are going to come. Or at best, your independent kid will throw themselves into a full stage 5 clinger mode. It’s hard enough leaving your child with someone else (no matter how much that someone else loves your child). But when your kids is struggling too, well, lets just say it’s not easy. But, here is a helpful tip from experienced childcare providers: Daycare drop off doesn’t have to be dreadful.
How to Rock Daycare Drop Off: Advice from childcare providers who have been there.
1. Set up the expectation
Talk to your kiddo. It may sound silly and over-simple, but sometimes the easiest way to tackle a new situation is to talk to your child or infant. First, let your child know what to expect from you , and the caregiver during daycare drop off. Also, don’t forget to discuss what you expect from your child. Play it out in a step by step, matter of fact way. For example you could say, “First, you greet caregiver, then child takes off shoes and jacket. Reassure them. Kids are so smart, and they pick up from your calm assurance.
Jim Taylor, PHD writes in Psychology Today:
“If you want your children to develop that essential sense of competence, you should communicate messages about effort expectations, over which they have control and that actually encourage them to do what it takes to achieve the outcomes you want. These expectations are also within your children’s control. If your children feel that they have the tools to feel competent, they are much more likely to embrace and pursue their goals.”
2. Stay Consistent
Whether you stick around to chat with your provider during daycare drop off, or you are quickly in and out, be sure to stay consistent. Stick to the expectations you’ve laid out with your child. If you tell him he gets two hugs, that’s it. Giving in to your child only makes things more confusing to him, and more difficult for you.
“Consistency between parents and caregivers is very important,” says Bernard Arons, M.D., director of the Center for Mental Health Services, in Washington, DC. “A child learns how to approach the world by observing the behavior and values of the people around him. The more consistent the messages he gets, the more stable he feels. Without consistency, kids have a hard time controlling themselves.” (Via Parents Magazine)
3. Recognize that Transitions are Hard
Transitions and change are hard for everyone! It’s okay to feel that, and it’s okay to let your child feel those feelings, too. Keep in mind that your child will pick up her social cues from you- if you are sad or say things like “Oh I wish I could stay with you all day, too”, it won’t help your kid. Children follow your cues, so if they see you sad to leave them, they may feel you need them to cling to you or be sad too. Lori Petro from Teach through Love has some amazing affirmations and gives terrific advice on how to recognize a child’s feelings without guilting or shaming them. One of my favorite quotes from her is “Don’t use empathy to get what you want from your kids. Use empathy to give your kids what they need.” So, in this moment, when you understand their feelings, ask yourself: “What does my child need from me?” Reassurance, consistency, affirmation, and follow through.
4. Reaffirm: Grown Ups Come Back
Daniel Tiger is an incredible children’s show, if nothing else for its impact on the social-emotional development of children. One of the best songs that Daniel Tiger sings is “grown ups come back”. Reaffirm to your child that you will be back at “xyz” time. This will help them overcome any anxiety they may feel about leaving you. Again- stay consistent, loving, and firm.
5. Distraction Distraction Distraction
This is more for the caregiver than the parent. The parent-caregiver team is so important, and working together to create a seamless drop off for you and your child is imperative. So after you have your child settled, loved on, reaffirmed, that’s time for your caregiver to step in. Sometimes, it’s as simple as leading a child to a new activity. Other times, it takes a little more firmness (and love). One of my favorite tools to distract children from running to the door is to pick them up and carry them to sit on my kitchen counter and “help me” make coffee. Not only is it a terrific distraction, but it also is a great way for the Little to have a minute of one-on-one attention by her new authority figure. And as a bonus- the child feels very special- it’s not every day they get to help with Miss Lauren’s elixir of life- and sit on the counter to boot!
Remember: your child may LOVE coming to daycare, but it’s still hard to see you go!
Understanding them, setting limits, and staying consistent and calm are the best ways to help them overcome a rough transition into school or daycare. It may not be a simple, overnight fix, but with open and clear communication with your caregiver- you can do it!
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