Drop offs are hard. They’re tough for parents and kids alike.
When your child starts kindergarten, drop-offs can be a stressful time. It’s not just about the separation anxiety—it’s also about all the new things they have to learn and do in their new environment.
But there are ways that parents can help ease this transition for their children so they feel more comfortable at school.
If you have a kindergarten student that cries at school drop-off, here are 10 ways to make it easier for both of you.
Why do kids cry at drop off?
Kids are going to kindergarten for the first time. They’re entering a new school, and they may be nervous about it.
Some parents believe that kindergarteners cry because they don’t want to leave their toys or miss breakfast at home. This is true for many children—and there’s no shame in recognizing the source of the kindergarten tears.
But the main reason kindergarteners cry at drop off is that they’re upset about the separation from their parent.
Separation anxiety isn’t a disorder, and it doesn’t mean something is wrong with your child or her kindergarten experience. It means she cares deeply for you, and she wants to be in contact with you. She needs reassurance that she’s doing the right thing by going to kindergarten, and also that kindergarten is a safe place to go each day.
Know what causes kindergarteners to feel anxious about school?
They may worry: I won’t like it at kindergarten. I won’t be able to play with my friends. I won’t be able to go to the bathroom when I need to. I might get in trouble if I don’t do what kindergarten teachers expect.
So they cry, or have tantrums, or cling anxiously as a way of saying “save me!” from all these changes.
What kindergarteners need most is reassurance that kindergarten is going to be fine—that they’ll make friends, have fun with their buddies, and feel safe at school.
Ten Tips For Stopping Your Kindergartner From Crying at Drop Off
Tip #1 Prep them for their day/Set up a routine
Talk about kindergarten throughout the day and what they’ll do when they get to school. It can be helpful to set up a chart that shows their routine; kindergarteners like structure, so having pictures or words with arrows showing where the child goes next will help them feel more comfortable at drop off.
Practice eating lunch and snacks out of the containers they will use at school.
Create a morning routine where they know what happens next (e.g., brush teeth first, then breakfast). Practice this morning routine to make kindergarteners feel more comfortable when you’re setting up their routines for school.
Your child will feel secure if she knows exactly what is going on.
2. Read them a book at bedtime
The Kissing Hand is a wonderful book about a raccoon and his mother: Chester is about to start Kindergarten and he is nervous so his mother offers him some words of wisdom and a secret between them to help ease his stress.
Read this at bedtime or even take a few extra minutes in the morning and snuggle up with your child to start the day off.
3. Send them with their favorite stuffed animal
My niece was struggling with day camp and I suggested to my sister-in-law to bring a stuffed animal that she could hold onto until she was ready to participate. The camp was very accommodating and it helped her get through that tough first few minutes.
4. Make sure nothing is actually wrong
Sometimes your child doesn’t want to go to school because something is actually wrong. Ask them if anyone is hurting them or being mean to them.
If it’s not that, then talk to the kindergarten teacher and make sure kindergarten is a good environment for your child.
5. Have a different parent do drop off
It’s extremely hard for kindergarteners when their parent is the person who drops them off, so having another adult such as a grandparent or aunt also drop your kindergartener off can help make kindergarten less scary.
In our family my husband did drop off to start because both of my kids had a harder time when I dropped them off. Having dad or grandparents do drop off for a little while may make things easier for your 4 or 5 year old if they are especially attached to you.
6. Watch “Grownsup Come Back”
Daniel Tiger is such a wonderful tool for young children. There is a youtube clip that you can watch on the way to school. The story is also extended in a book.
7. Talk to the teacher
If your kindergartener is nervous or anxious, then ask for an invitation to visit with the kindergarten class. Having you visit and do a few first things with them might help your child warm up sooner.
Take this opportunity to chat with the teacher about other things you can do at home.
8. Send notes in their lunchbox
Knowing that you are thinking of them can help ease a child’s anxiety. Place a few love notes or pictures of your family in their snack and lunch containers.
9. Be Patient
Remember kindergarteners are still learning how to control their emotions so it’s okay for them to cry sometimes.
Be patient, kindergarten is a big jump from preschool. They may take a while to adjust and get used to kindergarten; crying is common when dealing with change.
10. Make Changes
If it has been weeks with no change and your child is still very upset at drop off, consider changing teachers or schools. Something may just not be sitting right with your child. Trust your mom or dad gut.
Too often kindergarten drop-offs are upsetting and stressful for young children. We all know it’s not an easy transition to kindergarten, but there are ways we can help ease the pain of your child adjusting to a new routine at school.
Have you any tips to share? Please leave a reply and we would appreciate your input to the kindergarten crying at drop-off discussion!
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