Every parent knows that pick-up is wayyyyy more fun than drop-off. I think we can all agree that leaving a tearful child who’s reaching and calling for you as you head off to work is about as fun as a root canal. Even though you know that little Henry or Harriet is all smiles minutes after the door closes behind you, it’s hard to erase the residual pain of those cries from your mind for the rest of the day. Cue the mom (or dad) guilt, we all have it.
In hopes of making this part of your day more enjoyable for you and your little one, we’ve rounded up a few helpful tips for keeping it tear-free.
1. Engage with your little one during the ride to daycare. Sing songs, talk about things you see on the ride, name the color of the houses you pass by. Feeling like they have your undivided attention prior to drop-off helps them to separate from you without too much clinginess. If they get your attention during the ride, they’re less likely to feel like they have to soak it all up as you’re trying to rush out the door.
2. Create a consistent “goodbye” routine like a big squeeze, a kiss and a little song that cues you’re about to leave. Avoid hanging around or spending too much time chatting with the teacher. This puts the idea of you being a part of the classroom in your child’s head and they’re less likely to separate from you easily.
3. If your child seems anxious or reluctant about going to daycare, excite them with a plan for when you pick up. Think along the lines of an ice cream or playground date, their favorite dinner, or even just plan to play a game they love later that night. This should help shift their focus as well as give them something to look forward to.
4. Have your child bring a lovey, blanky, favorite stuffy, or something that brings them comfort to daycare. A familiar piece of home will go a long way in helping them feel secure throughout their day.
Remember Mom/Dad, you’re not alone in this. Partner with your homecare provider to come up with ways in which they can help make the transition smoother for your child too. Sandra Emery, owner & provider at Sandy’s Tiny Tykes, suggests that caregivers use lots of excitement and enthusiasm to greet each child so the little one is delighted to be there. “I always make small talk with the parents asking how the evening and night was to gather the essentials as to how the little one was and then talk more with the little one. When it’s time and I have the child in my arms, I always tell them, ok now we don’t want mama to be late for work, let’s give her a big kiss and hug and wave from the window! If the child is very shaken or crying I usually tuck away their favorite toy somewhere that when we go to look at it the door is to our back side so I’ll say…let’s find your stuffed animal.. I think it’s over here.. and the little one gets distracted and out mom slips.” Another pro-tip is for caregivers to encourage little ones to go say hi to the [insert fun toy here like trucks, babydolls, stuffed animals, etc.], and say they missed you last night. Lastly kids need visuals so Sandy shares, “I have a clock and one of my kids asks when so-in-so will be here so I draw another clock and placed it under my current one. I tell her when everything matches, so-in-so will be here. I put the time a half hour out just in case traffic happens.”
Like all transitions, it will take a bit of time for your child to adjust. In the meantime, routine and consistency are the name of the game. Once your little one starts to forge friendships and trust builds with your child’s caregiver, they’ll begin to look forward to daycare. A piece of independence for them, and much needed peace of mind for you.
JulieAnn is a freelance writer, wife, and mother to two little girls. A New England native, she enjoys experiencing the seasons through the eyes of her daughters. She’s passionate about connecting with and helping other mothers who, like her, are just figuring it out as they go.