For some children and families, the ‘daily drop off’ is a simple and quick process – a kiss on the cheek, and the child runs off to play. For other families, however, dropping children off for a day of fun can be anything but.
For a number of different reasons, navigating the big feelings of drop off time is a complex mix of feelings, bribes, distractions, and long long looooong goodbyes!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel! These easy to implement tips can turn drop off from drama to dream.
When children first start attending childcare, drop offs are crucial in helping them transition to care. If parents are anxious, and hovering ready to jump in at the first sign of distress, children will pick up on this.
The aim should be for low key departures and excited reunions. If parents and families are able to consistently use the same routine and messaging when dropping their children off, putting all the emotional energy into a happy reunion, children will settle in to care much more quickly.
Using the same language each day (“Mum is leaving for work now. Shall we stand at the fence and wave goodbye?”) can help children to feel more comfortable with transitions.
Educators have a part to play here too. Wherever possible, educators should be consistently rostered in the same rooms at drop off times, so that the child and family have a familiar face to connect with.
Keeping one or more activities or areas of the room the same can also be very calming for children – they then know where they can go in the room to engage with something comforting.
Don’t be sneaky
While it can be tempting for families to “sneak off” once their child is engaged with an activity, this can do more harm than good in the long run.
When parents sneak off, children respond by being hypervigilant the next time drop off happens, perpetuating the cycle of anxiety by clinging even tighter.
Parents and caregivers should give children a warning that they will be leaving soon. Simple words on the journey to care, such as “First I’ll drop you off at childcare, then you’ll play with your friends. After lunch and a nap, I will come to pick you up again, and we will have spaghetti for dinner” can orientate the place of care in the child’s day.
When it comes time for a parent to leave, the same technique can be used to create a smoother drop off process.
“I’ll finish this puzzle with you, then I am going in to work. Do you see someone here you’d like to play with when I go?”
Communication, on both sides of the fence, is a really important component of the drop off process.
Parents should communicate with educators, letting them know about any changes for the child since they were last in care.
Educators can communicate with children about what exciting things the day holds, and everyone involved can communicate with each other through tools such as Storypark, which gives parents a “real time” window into their child’s day, alleviating worries.
Nothing soothes a worried parent mind more than a photo or video of the child they left crying 10 minutes ago happily engaged in play.
Parents can also use resources such as Storypark to share more about their child’s world beyond childcare, making the transition from home to care even smoother.
For more ideas on how to tackle drop off drama, see the further resources below: