Starting school is such an exciting milestone! It’s normal to be both excited and nervous, especially if it’s your child’s first time at school. School drop-off can feel tricky to navigate and bring up different emotions for both you and your child. As both a longtime preschool teacher and a mom of two, I am familiar with both sides of this situation.
Here are a few dos and don’ts to consider if school drop-off begins to feel daunting:
Do keep it short and sweet.
It can feel hard to say a quick goodbye when your child seems sad, but it usually is best. Usually a teacher will be available to help support your child with the transition into school. Remember that most children warm up quickly. My son liked to make a plan for after school on the way into the building. He would choose a certain snack or a certain activity to do when he got home. It helped him to have something to look forward to.
Don’t linger around the hallway or classroom.
Avoid getting sucked into a long, drawn-out process. During hard school drop-offs I have asked my son’s teacher if it’s best for me to just walk away, and his teacher has always said, “Yes.”
Do develop a routine.
Choose whatever works for you, but try your best to stick to it. An example could be, “Two quick kisses and a big squeeze!” Children do well with predictable routines. Remind them that whoever is in charge of pickup will always be there. A visual calendar at home showing which days are school days and which days are home days could help.
Don’t show your own uneasiness.
While we want to be honest with our children, they will pick up on our energy and facial expressions. Remain confident in your choice, smile while you validate their feelings, and continue on with the school drop-off routine. Reassure them that you know they will have a great day at school, and you will always come back to pick them up.
Do ask for updates.
It’s not unreasonable to make a plan for your child’s teacher to communicate with you in the unlikely event they are unable to settle into their day. Is there a communication app? A quick e-mail? A call into the office? Make a plan in advance so that you can feel confident as you head into your own day.
Don’t expect constant updates and feedback.
We know teachers are busy, and since we know most children will settle into their normal daily routine, know that no news is good news. If you haven’t heard otherwise, then they are likely having a normal day.
Do create or download a simple social story about going to school before the school year starts.
There are tons of children’s books (often with familiar characters) about starting school. Answer any questions, talk about what they can expect, and let them know that they can always go to their teacher for help.
Some of my favorites include:
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
- The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems
- Daniel Goes to School (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) by Becky Friedman
- Dear Teacher by Amy Husband
- A Letter From Your Teacher on the First Day of School by Shannon Olsen
Don’t forget that this is completely normal!
Every child has a unique temperament and will warm up to new things at their own pace. It can feel draining to start your day with a stressful drop-off. I remember exchanging those looks of solidarity with other parents as either their child or my child was having a hard morning.
In many years of working with young children, even the most reserved children warm up and realize that school is fun! And even the most comfortable kids can have an off day, just like the rest of us. You are doing a great job!