On a toddler’s first day of school, a mom dropping a kid off at school is likely to experience one of the following scenarios…
Scenario #1: Your child jumps out of the car and barely waves goodbye as she bounds off with the teacher.
Scenario #2: Your 5-year-old cries about going to school and clings to you for dear life. Only a surgeon can pry their tiny yet strong fingers from your legs.
Well, guess what? Both of these scenarios happened to me. My eldest was the first scenario. It was very likely because she already had a friend there, the child of a close friend of mine. So we barely got a ‘goodbye’ when we took her for her first day of school.
My youngest, who always rode along for drop-off and pick-up for her sister, was the opposite. She would cry so hard; I’d have to go in with her and wait with her and the other children for the teacher to come to gather the class from the front and walk them back.
Of course, that was before COVID ever happened. We were supposed to drive up and let them out at the front, but due to staffing shortages at the preschool, most moms would get out, walk-in with our kids, and stay until the teacher came to the front.
School pick-up and drop-off times are important to follow. Especially school drop-off times. Every mama should make sure she knows the specific procedure at the school. And if something isn’t clear, ask! That’s what they’re there for!
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How to make it easier dropping your toddler off at school
For starters, you should begin with talking to your child in the summer before school begins. Let them know what to expect about the school, how long they will be there, and get them excited about going to school. I also highly recommend the following…
Visit the school with your child
Because of COVID, this may not be possible in your area. You should still contact the preschool or elementary school your child will attend and see if there is a way to visit the campus. If not, ask about a virtual tour. Familiarizing your child with this new setting will help it feel less foreign and scary.
Meet the teacher
Before COVID, most schools would host a Meet the Teacher event in the days before school started up again for the year. You would go and see the school and meet your child’s teacher. You could also drop off their school supplies so they wouldn’t have to lug a heavy backpack of notebooks and stuff on their first day.
Some schools will still offer meeting the teacher in person, but for those that don’t, they have set up virtually. I recommend that whatever way you can meet your child’s teacher before the school year begins, you do it. Your child will become less afraid when they meet the teacher, and it may even keep them from crying when they have already met their teacher.
Prep them for the school year
If you haven’t started your child on simple worksheets or learning toys, doing so before they start school is a smart move. This makes it easier for them when they start doing these things at school. And since it becomes familiar, they will be less likely to get upset at school.
How early can you drop your kid off at school?
School pick-up and drop-off routines depend on each school. While every state and county has its own rules, one preschool may start earlier than another. It’s important to know how early you can let your child out of the car at the school.
Because if you drop your child off too early, their classroom may be locked. There may not be anyone to look after them either. If you must arrive at work earlier than school drop-off times, you should look into before and aftercare. These services can come and get your child from home or have you drop them off there, and they will transport your child to school and pick them up. They’re supervised and cared for, so you don’t have to worry your child is alone and afraid.
If you do this, please make sure you integrate your child into this in advance. It can be overwhelming for little ones. Getting them comfortable with the new routine will help your child feel much more secure, plus you’ll have peace of mind knowing your child is safe.
How do I stop my child from crying when I drop off at school?
In addition to preparing your child by talking about school and getting her familiarized with this process, there are some other things you can do to curb those tears.
- Get up earlier
Yes, that sucks, but you want to get your child fed well before school. That means going to bed earlier too, which has excellent benefits for your child. But getting up early means you can make her favorite breakfast and help her get ready for the day.
- Bring a friend to cuddle
Some schools, even before COVID, wouldn’t allow your child to bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Find out if yours will allow it but if not, let your child bring that toy in the car. I always did this for my youngest, and I told her that stuffed animals would also come with me to pick her up. I’d make sure I’d bring whichever stuffed toy she had originally put in the car that day, and it helped a lot.
- Put her on a task
If you are allowed in the classroom on the first day, help her settle into an activity. Don’t linger too long, though. But if you find it’s not working, have the teacher help you with an exit strategy.
- Don’t let her see you cry
Mama, it is totally normal and fine for you to cry all the way home. But do not – I repeat – DO NOT let your toddler see you cry when you drop her off at school. She’ll think something is wrong and panic about being there. This moment is a bittersweet one for us mamas. Have it to yourself or in the company of your spouse or with other mamas.
And above all…
Keep a positive attitude! No matter what you’re worried about, smile and be positive about the experience. Your child can sense when something is off, so focus on having a sunny disposition. Again, you can go home and cry it out after. Just don’t let your little one see.
Eventually, your little one will stop the tears and be excited to go to school. Be strong, and patient, and it will all work out!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.