Tough Goodbyes: 5 Tips to Make Daycare Drop-Off Easier

Tough Goodbyes: 5 Tips to Make Daycare Drop-Off Easier

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Starting your day with a rough daycare drop-off is terrible.  With three kids – all of whom have been in childcare for most of their lives – we’ve had our fair share of rough daycare drop-offs.  I’ve gone through stages where my sobbing child has had to be pried off my leg.  And on more than one occasion, I’ve dropped them off, cried the whole way to work, and questioned whether I was making the right choice for any of us.

Toddler separation anxiety is normal, but that doesn’t make dealing with it any easier.  Here are a few strategies we’ve used to ease our children’s separation anxiety and make daycare drop-off easier.

1. Establish a consistent and predictable goodbye routine

A predictable goodbye routine is crucial. It could be as simple as something that you say every time, giving them a hug and a kiss, then waving at the window when you leave.  The key is to be consistent, so your child knows what to expect.

Keep your goodbye routine short and sweet.  Our children’s daycare teachers have repeatedly assured us that any tears disappear quickly, and a quick goodbye is better for everyone than a long, drawn-out one.

Stay positive.  Your child needs to see that you have confidence and trust in their caregiver.  As much as it breaks your heart to see them upset (believe me, I get it!), the last thing they need is to see you get upset too.  With six years of daycare drop-offs, I’ve become an expert at saving my tears for the car!

Try to drop off around the same time every day.  My kids are usually among the first children to be dropped off at daycare, and are used to walking into a fairly empty classroom.  I notice a big difference when we arrive later in the day to a full and busy classroom.

Finally, as tempting as it can be, don’t sneak out.  Although it might make goodbye easier today, it’s going to make it much tougher tomorrow.  Sneaking away undermines your child’s trust in you, is anything but predictable, and doesn’t give your child a chance to say goodbye.  Stick to your goodbye routine, even when your child cries through the whole thing.

Related: Starting Childcare: Tips to Make it Easier

2. Talk it up

Talk about the exciting things they’re going to do at daycare.  Ask them questions about their teachers, their friends, their favourite toys and activities, and let them see that going to daycare is exciting and fun.  Talk about the daycare routine, and let them know – in terms they can understand – when you’ll be back to pick them up (I’ll be back after afternoon snack vs. I’ll be back at 5:00).

Rough daycare drop-offs are no fun for anyone! Ease your child's separation anxiety and make drop-off easier with these practical daycare drop-off tips. #daycare #separationanxiety #startingschool #workingmom

3. Use a comfort item

Transitional objects can be an enormous source of comfort for some children.  Consider bringing a favourite item from home – a lovey, a stuffed animal, or a family photo – to help soothe your child.  One of our sons spent months carrying around a family photo at daycare.  It was a significant source of comfort for him during a major transition period.

Recently, I’ve had success drawing a heart on both my son’s hand and my hand (an idea I got from this fantastic video about helping your kindergartener with separation anxiety).  When he misses me, I’ve told him that he can look at the heart and know that I love him and I’m thinking of him – even when we’re not together.

Related: 3 Ways to Fight Working Mom Guilt

4. Read children’s books to ease separation anxiety

Books are one of my favourite ways to help children process transitions and events in their life.  I’ve compiled a list of 11 children’s books to help your child deal with separation anxiety – check it out here.

5. Prepare for setbacks

It’s inevitable – you’ll spend months developing a predictable daycare drop-off routine, finally get to the point where there are no tears, and then something will happen to mess the whole thing up.  It could be a vacation, a new teacher, a transition to a new classroom, or it could happen for no discernible reason whatsoever.  

As frustrating as it can be to go two steps forward, three steps back, remind yourself that it’s normal.  Stick to your predictable goodbye routine, utilize the other tips and tricks you have up your sleeve, and hopefully you’ll be back to better daycare drop-offs in no time.

Rough daycare drop-offs are no fun for anyone! Ease your child's separation anxiety and make drop-off easier with these practical daycare drop-off tips. #daycare #separationanxiety #startingschool #workingmom

2 thoughts on “Tough Goodbyes: 5 Tips to Make Daycare Drop-Off Easier”

  • I love your idea to draw a matching picture on our hand and our child’s that we can look at when we miss each other. My husband and I need to find a childcare service for our daughter so I can return to work and help pay the bills before the end of the month. My daughter and I are pretty attached, so the tips you shared to help the separation are much appreciated!

  • It stood out to me when you explained that having a special item from home can help children stay comfortable during drop-off. My husband and I want to find a daycare center for our three-year-old son to start going to because we’re worried he’s not getting any time around other kids his age. Thanks for teaching me what we can do to help this transition go as smoothly as possible for us!

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