Four weeks into kindergarten, and my son finally stopped crying at drop off. Had it not been for the support and stories of other moms, I might have thought that he was having a difficult time because he didn’t attend preschool. But most of the kids who were crying had attended preschool.
Here is some background information that we shared amongst the moms.
- Some kids went to preschool and loved it. These moms couldn’t understand why their kids were crying now.
- One kid went to preschool, cried every day there, and is now crying every day at kinder.
- Another little girl loved preschool; she has older brothers who all went to preschool (none of them cried at kinder) yet, she’s cried every day.
- One other little boy (aside from mine) didn’t go to preschool and is having a hard time.
- And out of the kids who are doing great, some went to preschool, and some didn’t.
As you can see, there’s a mixture of pre-kinder experiences. And attending preschool doesn’t guarantee your child will transition easily to kinder.
So what determines it all?
My guess is that it depends on their emotional needs. With so many different personalities, some kids are more ready than others to venture out without their moms, and some need that extra hug or a pep talk.
Can we make it better?
You can try and make drop off better by preparing your child. Enrolling your child in preschool, other extracurricular activities, talking to them and getting them excited about the idea of school are just a few ideas. Before kindergarten, my son attended some play classes so he could socialize with kids outside his family. He wasn’t happy and spent a lot of time after class trying to convince me of reasons why he shouldn’t go back, this class was only for three hours, two days a week. So, I know sending him to preschool when he was four would have been horrifying for him because emotionally he didn’t seem ready to take that on. But forward one year later, he was prepared for kinder.
Aside from the drop-offs and maybe one week and a half of adjusting in the classroom, he’s been happy. At pick up, he’s excited to share stories and what he learned. Currently, his favorite sentence begins with, “Mommy did you know …?” I love it! He’s got his own independent stories and contributions to bring back to the house, and he enjoys that.
I think our attentiveness to his stories and what he shares with us gives him a boost in confidence and makes him want to share more with us. So listening and showing interest helps. Establishing a routine, so nothing hits them by surprise, they’ll be more relaxed knowing what comes next. Also, making sure they go to bed on time, so sluggishness isn’t a factor. And of course, sending them to school with something in their tummies so they can feel their best. Overall, giving them the support, love, and patience they need while they deal with this significant new change can all help to eliminate anything that could add to the tears of having to say goodbye to mom at drop off.
Strategies If Your Child Is Struggling at Drop Off
Below are some of the things the other moms and I did to help our kindergartners. You’ll notice how different things work for different kids.
1. What I did:
a. First, there were the pep talks and making sure to acknowledge his bravery; all of this helped a tiny bit.
b. Then I began to buy a small toy and the first day he’d make it without crying; he’d get the toy. This strategy helped. I could see how hard he’d try not to cry and was successful on many days, but he was still clinging to my thigh or asking me not to leave.
c. About 2 ½ weeks in, I began to draw a heart and a happy face on his hand. The heart represented how much I love him, and the happy face was a reminder of how happy it made me to know that he was happy at school. Next, I’d outline a heart on my hand, and he’d color it in to remind me of how much he loves me. This idea helped him a lot. Although drop off was still a challenge, I noticed a significant improvement with this.
d. And then there were mornings where I kept him preoccupied with something, like holding something we had to give to his teacher or talking about something that interested him. Before he knew it, we were at the gate, and the goodbye was much more manageable.
2. Another mom bought matching bracelets for her and her son after trying the pep talks. So, anytime her son needed mommy love, he could look at his bracelet. She said it helped a lot. I noticed the improvement in her son as well.
3. Other moms dropped the kids off at the very end, right before they closed the gate; that way, the kids didn’t wait around letting their nerves build up.
4. Other mommies would get there early because it would help their child feel calmer. Those kids didn’t like a rushed goodbye.
As mommies, we all maintained a positive attitude and knew it was just a matter of time before the kids adjusted. But, we were also desperate to come up with anything that would help and happily shared ideas amongst each other.
So, if you have any great ideas to add that might make drop off less painful for kids (and moms), please share them! I’m sure that it would be appreciated by every mom out there whose heart is breaking at drop off because their little one is crying or screaming out for them, or running back out of the gate to cling onto them. I witnessed all of these things, and it’s heartbreaking.
Monica Luna Gonzalez
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