It’s So Hard to Say “Goodbye”

Over the years, many parents have told me that the hardest time of the day for them is when they drop their child off at school. This is understandable as the morning is full of transitions and saying “goodbye” to the precious person whom you love more than anybody else in the world can be difficult. This difficulty can be exacerbated by a child that cries when you leave or cries during the process of getting ready for school. That can be truly heartbreaking!

There are a number of factors that can play into how a child starts off his or her day, and it all starts at bedtime.  Be sure that your child has a predictable night-time routine as well as a bedtime that allows him to get 10-12 hours of sleep. If your child is put to bed feeling peaceful and in control and she is able to get a full night’s sleep, she will be able to start her day off positively.

As with bedtime, children also need a predictable routine in the morning. For toddler and primary age children, this routine must involve the child in making choices and doing things for himself. If you find yourself engaged in battles with your child in the morning, take a moment to reflect on what is causing the tension. You can let go of some of the tasks (such as brushing hair or getting dressed) that your child can do for himself. Remember that just because they cannot do it as well as you, doesn’t mean they cannot do it.

Even small gestures, such as offering your child a small pitcher of milk so that he can pour it into his cereal independently, can go a long way in helping him to feel as though he is in control of his morning. When your child awakes, he should know what to expect next.  Your child will be less prone to battles and tantrums if she already knows that when she finishes her breakfast, she will get dressed, then she will brush her teeth and hair…etc. Within each of these steps for the morning routine, offer your child a choice. “Would you like cold cereal or oatmeal?” “Do you want to wear your red pants or your blue pants?” Just be sure that you are comfortable with both choices so that you are able to follow through.

The drive to school is a perfect opportunity to help your child feel prepared for the next transition in his day. Be careful to avoid talking about topics that may “trigger” your child, such as a new teacher or a friend with whom she has a complex social relationship. Stick to simple topics that excite your child, such as music class or having snack.

Arriving to school at an early time  is one of the best ways to set your child up for success in the school day. They can build a lot of anxiety about school and the classroom when they arrive late or at inconsistent times. When you arrive at the building, be sure that your child leaves all toys, jewelry, and other treasures in the car. Have them put it in a special place where they know they will find it when they get picked up. Bringing these items into school can cause a lot of difficulty for your child as well as the teachers.

If your child is able to walk allow him to walk into the building independently. This is another means of empowering your child. Have a routine for dropping your child off at the room so that she can predict what is expected during this transition. If your child is able to carry his belongings in independently, allow him to do so. Remember that a quick and loving “goodbye” is always the best method, even if your child is crying. Prolonged goodbyes cause children to experience anxiety, especially if the parent is showing signs of stress. If your child cries and it causes you to linger, she will quickly figure out that a big fit is the way to get you to stay. If you give a loving but brief goodbye, every single day, he will learn that fits will not get you to stay. Although we encourage your departure to be brief, please know that sneaking out while your child isn’t looking is also not a desirable choice. This behavior will cause your child’s anxiety to be even higher and it will breed mistrust in you. Your child deserves to know that you are leaving and that you are coming back.

Every early childhood teacher knows that mornings can be difficult. They are here every morning to support you and your child during this transition period. Take comfort in the knowledge that your child is truly loved and well cared for in their school (or start looking for a new one if you don’t believe this). Great teachers believe that every family in the school can have a successful morning. Please approach your child’s lead if you are feeling as though you may need extra support in the mornings. They are here for you!


“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”  -Dr. Maria Montessori

~ by vegucationmama on August 1, 2014.

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