The last post was about the importance of a drop-off routine. But what does one look like? The following are suggestions — change them according your child, yourself, and your life. If nothing else, is make sure your child knows that you love them and you will always come back. The rest is icing.
Talk about what’s going to happen. The night before, let your child know that tomorrow they will be at school and it will be so much fun. Your child is going to play with (insert favorite activity) and you’ll see (insert names of other children and teachers). Remember to SMILE. Talk about how you won’t be able to spend the day with your child, how you will drop them off and then you’ll be gone for just a little while. But you’ll be back soon. Because you will always come back. You love them THAT much.
Establish a routine. Let your child know that you will walk into school with them, hang up their coat with them, and then you’ll give them the biggest, squeeziest hug and a big kiss on the cheek. And then you are going to leave for a while. But you’ll be back soon. There may be a special goodbye saying (See you later, alligator!) or high five to accompany the goodbye. After your child has heard this for about a week, you can make a game out of this by asking a questions like, “Now, what happens when we walk into school? I start dancing like a gorilla, right?”
Maybe your routine involves coming into the classroom for a few minutes and checking out what’s going on. You are welcome to put a time limit on this by saying, “I’m going to stay for 3 minutes and then it will be time for you start your day.” Don’t be afraid to set a timer on your phone.
On your way to school, repeat the routine again. You don’t have to draw this out, just a quick ten second run down.
Stick to the routine. For real. Word for word. Instead of a routine, think of it as a ritual. We all have them. Some always put on the left shoe first. Some always hold the sponge in the same hand when washing the dishes. Changing that up can feel uncomfortable, odd, and just plain off putting. Nobody wants to start their day like that.
Does that mean routines will never change? Of course not! There may be a morning you have to be at work early or someone else drops your child off. If possible, talk about this with your child the evening before. Let them know what will be different, but the fundamentals stay the same: You are going to have fun, I love you, I will see you soon.
Crying. It happens. There will be easy drop offs and more tearful drop offs. It is not a reflection of you. It is not a reflection of your child. It is not a reflection of the school. In my career as an educator, I have had thousands of crying drop offs and EVERY SINGLE ONE has gotten better with time.
The best thing you can do for your child is to say, “I know you are sad and I love you and I will see you soon.” Have a teacher ready, say “1…2…3….” and hand your child to the waiting teacher. Blow a big kiss, SMILE, and walk out the door.
The longer you linger, the longer your child will cry. Every teaching knows this. The faster a child can see that they will be safe and loved in school, the faster they’ll relax.
One child in my class cried each morning for the first week. On the sixth morning, she was a little sniffly and was coughing. Her mother asked if she wanted to stay home from school. The little girl replied, “I have to go to school because Phil will miss me. I want to go to school.”