For many parents, preschool has just begun, and for some it’s the first time separating from their little ones—as in, dropping them off and picking them up when the day is over. We all have to go through it at some point, and for some parents their kids are easier than others (my son still cries every single time I drop him off, but he stops 30 seconds after I leave so I think it’s become a bit of an act!). If you’re new to the whole preschool thing or can relate to my daily experience, here are five tips for getting through toddler separation—without being in tears on a daily basis yourself!
Discuss it. Make sure to explain to your child, no matter how old, what will be happening when you bring him or her to school. Sure, toddlers are young, but they understand way more than we give them credit for—and it’s important that they fully understand that mommy and/or daddy will be leaving and that they’ll have a blast while we’re gone. And make sure to explain what has become my son’s daily mantra: “When mommy leaves, she always comes back!”
Say goodbye. One huge mistake I’ve made in the past when leaving my son is not saying goodbye. I mistakenly thought that if I slipped out when he wasn’t paying attention he would be totally fine. And I was SO wrong. In fact, he got more upset, probably because I didn’t explain to him what was happening. So beyond discussing separation, make sure to say goodbye and that you’ll see him or her after a fun day at school.
Then just leave. Many if not most separation programs favor a gradual separation schedule—as in, kids gradually stay longer and longer and parents gradually leave the classroom/building. While a day or two of helping kids acclimate to a new school is totally fine in my book, it gets to a point when it’s time to leave. All kids will get through the tears and get used to a newfound sense of independence—but in my opinion, this can really only happen once parents leave for good. Lingering only gives kids a false sense that mommy/daddy will be staying at school too. Once your child’s teachers give the thumbs up to leave, get out as fast as you can and don’t look back.
Get the scoop from the teachers. If your child’s seemingly incessant crying is worrying you, or if you aren’t quite sure how to handle the whole separation thing, talk to your child’s teachers, as they’re the pros. Not only have they dealt with hundreds of preschool kids before—all with different personalities—but they can also give you advice on how to prepare for your child’s specific school and provide tips that will make the process easier.
Give yourself a break. If your child won’t stop crying and you feel totally helpless, or if you find tears rolling down your cheek when you leave your child crying, don’t be so hard on yourself. This too shall pass, and one day your child is going to enter the classroom, let go of your hand, and say “Bye Mommy!” with a big smile. Talk to parents going the same thing, or even better, parents who’ve been through it before and lived to tell the tale—you’re sure to feel better.