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Coping with Upsetting Drop Off Times

Date: March 19, 2019 Author: hpelc Categories: Educators Blogs, Parenting Blogs

By Alex Crosby

 

Why does my child cry when I drop them off? What should I do if they are crying?

These are questions that we, as educators, hear often from families. Usually from newer families, however there can be children that have been attending a centre for years that become emotional at drop off time after being settled. While there can be many reasons for being upset, the other side of this is addressing how we can help the child understand the emotions they are experiencing.

But first, the why. Why do children cry at drop off? It could be due to any of the following: –

  • Unfamiliar with the environment or educators
  • Strong attachment with family
  • Feeling unwell or tired
  • Changes occurring in the centre (new room or educator)
  • Changes occurring outside the centre (moving house, change in family dynamic, etc)
  • Change in routine (arrives earlier or later than usual, someone different drops them off, etc)

Or there could be many other factors that are unique to your family.

How can you help them?

Children tend to thrive more on a predicable routine, so they can understand what is going to happen next in their life. Changes to this can to confuse them and this can cause unsettled behaviour. While life itself can create days where a routine is not able to be followed, it is good to talk to your child about what their day may entail. This can be as simple or extensive as you like, but talking to your child about their day helps them to mentally prepare for it.

For example: –

“Today you are going to have some breakfast with mum, then she will drop you off at school. Today you might see Miss Cass in your room. Dax and Iryana also usually come to school today. After you have had lunch, you will take a nap, then have some afternoon tea. Finally, dad will come and pick you up this afternoon and take you home.”

This type of explanation, repeated each day, will help them to understand how their day is going run.

Helping them feel secure

Spending orientation time with the child in a new environment will help them to understand that you feel safe there, so they can feel safe too. We, as educators, also have a role to help them to feel secure in a new environment. Talking to their family can help them to see that their new teachers are friendly. We will also ask questions about your child such as their likes, interests, skills, culture and routine. All this provides us with the opportunity to learn about your child. We can then invite them to play with resources that are interesting to them. If they are having fun, they will generally feel safer and be happier coming into the environment.

Sometimes, a drop off can be too drawn out. There is no amount of time that is a rule for every child. Some will manage better from a quick drop off to a familiar educator that can support them to understand their emotions, others prefer to move straight to their peer group for reassurance. Perhaps having a routine of 1 story, a hug, a kiss, then goodbye at drop off will allow them to predict the routine, with the knowledge that each step taken means that they are closer to saying goodbye.

So, what should you do if your child is crying?
Usually, once a child is upset during drop off, it is best to have an educator comfort the child, say goodbye, and leave. While this can be difficult as a parent, it can be the best thing for your child. This way, the educator that is with them will support them and their emotions. This won’t stop them from crying the next time, but each time that you routinely leave after saying goodbye, they know to expect that you are leaving. Over the coming weeks, this will then become part of the drop off routine, they will understand, and they will become more settled during the drop off.

We will talk to them, explain that they are feeling sad, question them about why they are feeling sad, or help them identify that they appear sad because they love their family and are missing them when they are gone. We will then sit with them for as long as needed. This could be 2 minutes, it could the whole day. We will be present with your child, providing them with opportunities to express themselves, explore the environment or just to be cuddled.

Remember, you are always welcome to call us to see how your child is going! We know that adults need just as much support as children!