We know what we’re supposed to do at preschool drop-off. Leave them at the door (don’t enter the classroom!), give a swift and cheery goodbye (“Have a great time! I’ll be back to pick you up in a few hours!”), and leave. Even if they’re crying, every preschool teacher will tell you, you will only make it worse if you linger.
But it sucks. It really, truly sucks to wave-and-go when your three-year-old is screaming your name or some heartbreaking plea like, “DON’T LEAVE ME.” No matter how much we tell them it’s going to be fun and that their sadness is going to be temporary, lots of preschoolers simply aren’t into being left behind.
New York Times reader Julie Wilson DiColo shared something that helped her three-year-old son with his separation anxiety: A daily “dress rehearsal.”
She stands in the study while her husband walks their son down the hallway, pretending to be dropping him off at school. DiColo will mimic a teacher, changing her voice and announcing a plan for the day (sometimes as silly as, “Today, we’re going to stand on our heads!”). Before they started practicing for drop-off, teachers would have to pry her clinging son off her husband; now, after a run-through or two in the morning, he’s relatively tear-free.
The brilliance of this is that it has become part of their daily routine, it’s something he’ll eventually be able to vocalise that he no longer needs, and it’s working.
Other solid suggestions from NYT readers included:
Planning an activity to do with your child after you pick them up (read a book, do a puzzle, bake cookies). Remind them of the fun activity at drop-off so they have something to look forward to.
Bringing in a healthy snack, such as apple slices, for your kid to share with their classmates. The task of passing out the food distracts the child from the separation.
Hugging — a lot of hugging. When one reader drops her four-year-old son off, she gives him 20 one-second-long speed hugs, jostling him around until he’s laughing.
And if all else fails, as soon as you’re out of sight, go ahead and cry along with them.