So. You've met with the provider, you've spent a while visiting, you've said your goodbyes. You're about to leave, and your child doesn't want you to go.
There are four key points to a clean, cheerful drop-off.
1.) Hand the child off to someone. If your child is displaying anxiety, it is far, far better if he/she is handed into the caregiver's arms than to be expected to go wander off on his/her own steam.
2.) Once your child is in the caregiver's arms, do not take the child back into your arms. Though your intention is only to reassure, being handed back and forth between parent and caregiver is very unsettling to the child. The longer this goes on, the worse their distress becomes.
3.) When the child is in the caregiver's arms, leave immediately. If your child cries and reaches toward you -- oh, this is so hard, I know -- smile and leave. Take one of those clutching hands and kiss it, but don't linger and don't, don't, don't, take the child back. If you think of one more thing you'd like to say, do it 30 seconds later from in your car in the parking lot.
4.) SMILE. This is the hardest. Who can smile when their baby is so miserable? But if you want your child to learn to manage the drop-offs happily -- if you want your child to BE happy -- this is what you need to do. Children are sensitive to emotions. If Mommy looks worried, well, there must really be something to be afraid of, right?
And, most importantly, when you linger, looking anxious, you are telling the child that you don't really believe they can manage this. It's too hard.
It is hard. But it isn't too hard. Your child can manage it. YOU can manage it. If you project that confidence onto your child, they will believe it. Not the first time. Nor the second or the third, probably. Transitions are hard, particularly for toddlers, and it takes time to adapt to the expectations. But learn it they will.
If you are consistently cheerful and upbeat, the child will generally be managing drop-offs well within three to six weeks. If your child is still not managing after that time, talk to the daycare staff. In almost every case, the howling last no more than a few seconds after your departure, and then you can take comfort in the awareness that the only person being seriously traumatized is YOU.
Sigh. Ain't mothering fun? Keep smiling...