Here are a few tips to ease the day care drop off transition:
If your child is an infant, be sure to change and feed your baby before drop off so that you have some bonding time before separation is necessary. Feeding young infants often means they are drowsy upon arrival and will tolerate being handed to the arms of a new caregiver more easily.
Enlist your child’s familiar caregivers at the day care to help you with the drop off transition by greeting your child by name and helping her get engaged in play before you leave.
Always say goodbye! Some parents think that sneaking out after drop off will make the transition easier, but often there will be tears no matter what. If you do not say goodbye your child eventually will look around to find you have gone and may panic, making the separation process even harder.
Stay positive, even if YOU are apprehensive about leaving your child. Your child will feed off your emotions and if she senses that you are afraid or upset, she will be too.
You may hang out in the hallway or outside the door (out of your child’s sight) for your own sense of comfort after saying goodbye, but do NOT re-enter the room if your child is crying or has not calmed down after you said your goodbye. To help a child learn to adjust to the separation and learn to be comforted by his child care providers you need to say goodbye and mean it.
Do call to check on your child if they were still crying when you left. Often you will feel much better when the day care provider tells you they only cried for 10 minutes and are now actively engaged in play.
Separation takes time. Believe it or not, a child crying when you leave is developmentally a good thing, as bad as it may make you feel. Crying shows that your child is bonded to you. Separation anxiety is a stage all children should go through, some more than once, and how you handle it will have an impact on coping skills later on in life. Developmentally, we worry if a child separates and will leave with anyone without some tears or apprehension.
Use transitional objects, such as a stuffed toy, blanket or object from home to help the child with coping skills. This can even be an article of your clothing or something special that reminds the child of you.
Remember it is okay for a child to cry, and typically most children become actively engaged with play, a meal or caregivers 10-15 minutes after a parent leaves.
For children having difficulties with separation, you can make a photo book using a Dollar Store small photo album and pictures that illustrate what will happen during the child’s day. Review this picture book with your child each morning at breakfast before leaving the house and then send it to child care with him. Photos might include a picture of the child waking up in the morning, getting dressed, eating breakfast with his family, the car/bus he takes to day care, child care teachers, activities at child care and the last photo should be a picture of you hugging him when you pick him up to take him home.
Talk positively about your child’s day and your day on your ride to child care. For example, “You are going to be finger painting today with Miss Megan, that will be SO much fun!” or “Mommy will be saying goodbye and going to work, but I will be so excited to pick you up tonight and hear about your day”.
Lastly, make a BIG DEAL when you arrive to pick your child up at the end of the day. For the child who was having separation anxiety in the morning you can say, “See, Mommy/Daddy ALWAYS comes back to get you after saying goodbye!” and lavish them with hugs and kisses and praise for being a big boy/girl and playing with their friends while Mommy/Daddy was at work. Coincidentally, many parents are baffled that the crying child they left at the door that morning is now happily engaged in play and will sometimes now cry because they don’t want to leave day care!