Parenting Do’s and Don’t s for Successful Preschool Drop-Off

boy in brown hoodie carrying red backpack while walking on dirt road near tall trees

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You have got this parenting thing figured out, right? I mean, so far you’ve survived a nine-month pregnancy, 20 hours of labor, years on no sleep and toddler tantrums. So…saying goodbye to your child at preschool? You can handle it.
You’ve done all you can to prepare your child for the big day. Every item is ticked off your back-to-school list. But what about you? Have you spent any time preparing yourself? Have you thought about how you’re going to feel when your job, as a parent, is to walk away for the first time?
As a preschool teacher, I witnessed more than 18 years of dramatic farewell scenes: shell-shocked parents unable to give their upset preschooler a confident send-off because they are suddenly emotional themselves. Letting go is a powerful thing. So prepare yourself.
Beware little ears. Don’t confess your preschool jitters to your friend when your child is right beside you. Keep preschool discussions positive, light and simple.

Have a Plan. And let him in on it. Mommy’s taking you to school. You’ll have lots of fun. I’ll be back when school is over.

Know the rules. You probably received a policy manual at registration. Read it. It outlines the program, routine and policies. You’ll know if she needs indoor shoes, or a labeled cup for snack. You will make her transition easier if she has everything she needs. Don’t promise she can carry Mr. Blanky around, and then find out it’s against the rules.

Prepare for the Kiss-and Fly. The big day! You both march confidently into school. The teacher greets you at the door. Then it hits you like a bag of hammers: This is my baby’s classroom. And I’m not invited. It’s like arriving too soon at the departure gate with security telling you to move along. You consider hanging around for a minute. Don’t! Your job is to send the message to your child that school is a safe, fun place. By standing there looking doubtful, you set his radar off: There’s something to be scared of.

And the Oscar goes to… Here’s where your high school acting career comes in handy. Breathe. Smile. And say in a calm, confident tone, Have lots of fun. I love you. I’ll be back when school is over.

Beware the Velcro trap. One kiss. One hug. Then walk. Do not get snagged in a Velcro grip as your daughter decides she’d rather go home and watch Shimmer and Shine. Stay calm. Her teacher will take her (not unlike removing a kitten from a wooly sweater) and comfort her. Keep walking. I mean it. Mentally block out the crying with the well-practiced mantra, She’s in a safe place.

Do not play Let’s Make a Deal. This is no time to bargain, so don’t promise an LOL Doll if she stops crying. And don’t cancel Christmas if she doesn’t. Remember, by lingering you make it worse, sending the message: I cry, Mommy stays; I cry harder, Mommy stays longer, And She’s staying, so there must be something to cry about!

Watch those claws. They expect you to leave your hysterical baby while some other adult comforts her?? Back off Mama Bear, and trust the teacher. Believe me; we are very good at hugging, reassuring and distracting. The faster your child realizes her teacher is caring and trustworthy the faster she’ll adjust to her new preschool. I promise she will always love you best.

Hold the waterworks. Unless you bring your own mom, no one’s comforting you. Sorry. You can drop the tough act in the parking lot; there’ll probably be a whole group of you. Go have coffee and pass the tissues. Chances are that before the foam cools on your latte; your son will have stopped crying and started tackling his first puzzle.

Don’t count on clinginess. Your daughter might be the one who bounds into school without a backwards glance, let alone a kiss goodbye. Guess what? This may break you heart. Remind yourself that an easy transition is a blessing.

Keep your end of the bargain. When school is dismissed, be there to greet your little scholar– not stuck in a Starbucks line up. It’s crucial. Minutes can feel like an eternity to an anxious child-especially when he sees all the other mommies and daddies collecting their charges.

Give it time. Your child may reenact the dramatic farewell scene for a while; three to five weeks of regular attendance is a typical adjustment period. Your job is to get them there, on time, regularly. The faster the routine is set, the faster they will adjust.

Your rookie preschooler is entering a new stage of development. And like most stages, it often starts out rocky. Need a reminder? Just reconnect with a new parent with that, I’m so tired I’m throw-up sick look, or one who’s desperate for a toddler to give up the bottle. Trust me, in a few weeks your child’s preschool class will be a room full of happy adjusted children. And your child will be one of them.

images-2For Picture Book support look at the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney. They are wonderful for establishing comfort, confidence and security. My favorite is Llama Llama Red Pajama