Developing a preschool drop-off routine takes planning and preparation. While each child has unique emotional needs, parents should begin preparing for preschool by meeting the preschool teacher and establishing a good morning routine. When the time comes to leave the child at preschool, parents should keep their goodbyes short and sweet, and understand that even the most emotionally stable child will have bad days. With patience and diligence, the pre-school drop-off process can become a regular, predictable part of the child’s life.
If possible, meet the preschool teacher before the first drop-off. “Stranger anxiety” is a natural developmental phase, so eliminate the stranger to eliminate the anxiety. Many preschools have “Back to School” nights where children can meet the teachers and tour the school before preschool begins. If joining the preschool mid-year, try to take a tour a morning or two before beginning school. Be sure to follow up any meeting by talking about preschool at home to give children a chance to accept the idea of preschool attendance.
The next step to painless preschool drop-offs is establishing a steady, reliable routine. Begin developing your routine a day or two before preschool begins with a good breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and gathering coats and backpacks for school. When the first day of preschool comes, make sure there is enough time in the morning so the children won’t feel rushed getting ready and saying goodbye.
In unusual situations, children will look to their parents for clues on how to act. Children who see a parent that is calm and not worried about separation will be reassured and better able to face the new situation. A parent making a big deal and dragging out the goodbye signals to the child that there is something to be concerned about, heightening fears and triggering separation anxiety. A quick goodbye helps kids know that everything is under control and there is nothing to worry about.
After the first day of preschool, take the time to ask what happened. In addition to helping reinforce lessons learned at school, showing an interest in the activities at preschool helps children feel like their time at pre-school is important and interesting, encouraging attendance. Talking about a preschooler’s day allows them to have their own adventures, knowing that they can bring the stories home to share with their family.
Finally, it is important to understand that everybody has bad days, children included. There are many things that can disrupt an otherwise smooth drop-off routine, many of which are out of the parent’s control. Sometimes it is necessary to leave a crying child at pre-school. Stay strong, and press a mental “reset” button the next day to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Don’t let a bad today ruin a perfectly good tomorrow.
While many parents dread the initial preschool drop-offs, with understanding, preparation, and patience, parents can help their children start the preschool process on the right foot. Parents taking the time to meet the teacher and tour the preschool facilities, develop a routine, keep the goodbyes short and sweet, and understand that tears will happen will find success in developing the “Painless Pre-school Drop-off”.