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How to Nurture a Clingy Child: School Drop Off

Posted by on Mar. 15, 2013 at 2:31 PM
  • 5 Replies

Your 3-year-old is moved to tears each morning when you drop him off at preschool. How can you comfort and reassure him without perpetuating the daily turmoil that is morning drop-off? We've asked a psychologist, a preschool director, and a mother.

Ellen Hock, Ph.D., separation-anxiety researcher and visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine:

"When you drop off your child, she'll feel more comfortable if there's a regular routine. The reliability of everyday behaviors provides security. For example, you might pause a moment to interact with the teacher. This routine helps reassure your child that Ms. Jones is okay. Leave in a consistent way and don't linger. By lingering you reveal your concern and contribute to the escalation of your child's anxiety."

Doris Knuth, director of the Concordia University Early Childhood Education Center, River Forest, Illinois:

"Come at the same time every day to drop off so they know when they get to the classroom it's breakfast or playtime. If you come one day at 8 and the next at 10, the child becomes confused.”

"To help the children, we have family photos in the classroom. A child can always go and see pictures of parents, family, the dog, or Grandma and Grandpa. They can be part of a child's day. And children, even children as young as 2 years old, are very proud of showing people their family."

Tina Grotzer, mother of four, and a Wondertime advisory council member, Lincoln, Massachusetts:

"At drop-offs, my daughter Annaliese, then 4, ran into preschool, barely saying good-bye. But for the first month, Slater, her twin, sat outside for an hour with his toy rabbit, Bun-Bun.”

"Every day I gave him time to settle, along with consistent good-bye rituals that included kisses for each of our hands to put in our pockets. He knew exactly when I was coming back — and I was never late. And then I left, even though he looked sad. I never stopped to talk to anyone but got into my car where he could see me leave. It took most of the year, with tiny transitions, but now he does fine."

Originally published in Wondertime magazine.

by on Mar. 15, 2013 at 2:31 PM
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by on Mar. 15, 2013 at 7:27 PM

i'm so thankful i dont have to deal with this 

by on Mar. 15, 2013 at 8:06 PM

My kids never had a problem with being dropped off for preschool. They knew it would be fun.  My daughter (my oldest) has always been great with school, she's in 4th grade now and is very independent.  My son is in 2nd grade and he hates the mornings.  The school wants all the kids to go to the cafeteria, if they are on campus before the bell rings and a teacher will take them to their classes.  He hates that.  He wants me to walk him to his classroom door, every single day.  Once he's with his teacher, he's fine.

by on Mar. 16, 2013 at 1:18 AM

tfs. i am sure we are going to have issues getting my son to go to school next year.

by on Mar. 16, 2013 at 3:01 PM

How to not linger when my 3yo ds is clinging to me? I am handing him to his teacher and she holds him for a while. We just switched daycares, so I'm hoping it gets a lot easier in the next few weeks.

by on Mar. 17, 2013 at 7:10 AM

My third had a tough time letting go when he was three, going to preschool two days a week.  While he was fine when he was at school, making friends, learning happily, he was very sad to leave me.  He didn't understand why I couldn't go with him.  He wanted me to stay in the car in the parking lot, instructing me to knit and read so I don't get bored.  At pick up he wanted to know EVERYTHING I did that morning.  Thank goodness the preschool had many opportunities for parents to volunteer so he was comforted by the fact that mommies can go to school too, sometimes.

He's in K now and better but still has a trace of anxiety in the morning.  He did confide in me a couple of months ago that leaving for school is the saddest part of his day and wonders why I have the biggest smile of the day at his departure.  My response to him was simply, "I am just so proud of you that you are doing so well at school!  Learning and making friends is a wonderful gift and I am so happy for you!  The world will be so bright for you!"  He was relieved to hear this as he thought I was happy I was getting rid of him.  I was puzzled at first but then realized how sensitive and in-tuned he was with his feelings and how well and precise he articulated those feelings. Thank goodness he shares with me and we talk about it.  :)

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