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Managing daycare drop-offs

How to help your toddler have a smooth transition

by MaryP  |  11731 views  |  6 comments  |        Rate this now! 

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...

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

6 comments so far...

  • Great advice. I've tried the linger and the drop & split methods and either way tears ensue, so we've come to a middle point of me staying until he's pretty comfortable, but not longer than 5 minutes.
    I must say, the "being confident" thing is so much easier said than done when your child is clawing for you. However, I've often seen him stop crying before I'm out of the room once the handoff is made, which makes me feel so much better.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by BrendaG on 8th September 2008

  • You totally just read my mind and your timing is perfect. This will totally help our current situation. (new daycare, now a toddler, lots and lots of drama)

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Amelia Sprout on 31st July 2008

  • I haven't seen any of the kids at my son's daycare scream or cry when they get dropped off yet. Actually, I have seen two scream when they got picked up, though, and want to stay there to play with all the toys. Maybe because the daycare makes us leave them with their teacher at the door and not go inside the classrooms. I'm not sure.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by oceans mom on 28th July 2008

  • Great advice!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 24th July 2008

  • Why, thank you, Anastasia! What a lovely thing to say!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 20th July 2008

  • Oh Mary -- sometimes I think I would move to Canada if only I was able to have you taking care of my son! You continue to be the standard against which I measure all childcare providers.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by anastasiav on 18th July 2008

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