How can I make it easier on DD (and me!) when I leave her at preschool for the first time? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 03-31-2010, 01:31 PM - Thread Starter
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We have hardly ever left her, so it's a big deal for all of us!

She went to preschool for the first time this past week, but I stayed with her for the whole session (4 hrs.)

Any tips on leaving her with minimum trauma?

She says she's not ready to stay without me, but I see what a great time she has there, and know she'll be ok.

I guess I'm wondering if there's a "technique" that will make it easier on us all. For instance, should I warn her well in advance? Or mention that I'll be leaving shortly beforehand?

And if she's clinging to my leg crying for me to stay, then what?!?

Honestly, I'm dreading it. I'm such a wimp.

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#2 of 14 Old 03-31-2010, 01:57 PM
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This is how I handle my son -- I talk to him about it in advance, talk about how much fun it is , wonder what they will do during the day ("do you think you'll paint pictures today?"), etc. Then he is allowed to bring a "lovey" to school so he picks which one will go with him. Once we get there, I help him settle into an activity and give him some hugs and kisses and then I kiss his lovey to "hold it" for him so if he is missing me, his lovey will give him one of my kisses. For DS, I like to linger just a bit but I know some do better with a drop and dash approach. Also, DS does much better when there are not a lot of other parents leaving at the same time so I try to leave when it is a bit quieter.

After saying all that, though, be prepared for tears, both yours and hers. That's just part of the process. The first two weeks are by far the hardest. During that period, I hang out in the hall (out of sight) so that I know that he's not really crying all day (which is what I would imagine otherwise).

Good luck, Mama!

Julie - Wife to Louis, Mamma to Ben (11/06) and 2
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#3 of 14 Old 03-31-2010, 02:10 PM
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For my DS's first day, we had a long talk at bedtime the night before his first class (where I stayed). He cried and cried and cried about it, and I was super nervous about leaving him for the first time.

As it turned out, I think he got it all out of his system during our talk. He has not cried even once in the many preschool drop offs since. Now, I'm sure part of this is personality, but I do think getting it out of his system helped a little bit.

ETA: Of course, I cried after I left him!

Mommy to two super cute kids.
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#4 of 14 Old 03-31-2010, 05:37 PM
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I haven't dealt with this yet as a parent, but as an former preschool teacher, I can make a few suggestions. If at all possible, try to be one of the first families to drop off. Some children are overwhelmed when they walk in on a group of playing children, arriving early also allows the teacher a little more time to greet you. Try not to sound reassuring (that sounds odd!) what I mean is sometimes when a parent says something like 'it's going to be okay', it triggers something in the child, causing them to think, well why wouldn't it be okay and then they seem to get scared... Does that make sense? Another tactic is to remind your child what you will be doing after school, and maybe key the teacher in on this, so your DD will have a concrete idea that time at school will end and then maybe you'll go to the park. It doesn't even have to be something for her to look forward to, like a treat, but just a reminder that her day won't end at school. Sometimes giving your LO a clear limit to the amount of time you'll be staying works too, such as 'I'll stay until you get settled coloring, or start a puzzle', or whatever activity is available. Actual time limits, like 2 minutes, don't seem to be quite as effective.

I've seen parents try different ways of dealing with a tearful goodbye, prying themselves loose, staying, or taking the child home with them. I don't think there is a universal answer. Like PP suggested, most children do fine after a week or two, you will have to decide what is within your comfort level.


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#5 of 14 Old 03-31-2010, 07:54 PM
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I'm also a former pre-school teacher. One thing that helped some kids, was if the parent would help them get started with something. "Look, your friends are doing stickers!" and once they're into it, a quick, confident goodbye. Another approach that worked for some kids was a good-bye ritual- parent carries in child, brings them straight to me, set them down for some high-fives and jokes, then make contact with me "Teacher, I'm leaving Jason with you now", then I take the child's hand and we go to the window to wave, then to breakfast or coloring. With one child, nothing worked but firmness- I didn't agree with the approach but her mom would say, "Now, Alexandra, we do not cry or get upset when we say goodbye," and she'd suck up the sniffles, smile, kiss her mama and come play. With some kids, nothing worked! They'd cry and cling until their parents took them home, or they'd sorta pry them off and dump'em- sometimes the kid was alright after a few minutes. Or hours. Or weeks. Or not. I definitely noticed that not all children thrive in group care, and they never got used to it, and I always felt bad that their parents couldn't just take them home and take care of them. (Not to mention it's hard to care for 20 kids when 1 is always freaked out!)
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#6 of 14 Old 04-01-2010, 05:11 PM
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A couple more ideas from my dd's teachers: find out the schedule/routine in advance, so you can tell your child ahead of time that first she'll play, then there will be story time, then snack, then I'll pick you up (or whatever). That way, the child has a sense of how the day will move forward and when you'll come back.

Second, start a morning routine. When you get there, do a puzzle together or read a book or whatever. Make it the same thing every morning. That way your child knows exactly when you'll be leaving.

Also, your dd might be fine. I was very nervous for my dd's first day of preschool. I work PT, so I had left her with a nanny before (the same one since she was 4 months old, so she was like family as far as dd was concerned), but never in a group situation. My dd did just fine and there have never been tears at school. How old is your dd? In my dd's class, the kids with the biggest difficulties have been closer to two, while those closer to 3 have been fine.

Sarah, mama to Miriam 9/26/2006 and Isaac 2/12/2010
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#7 of 14 Old 04-01-2010, 09:54 PM
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She might surprise you. I lost a lot of sleep over this same issue just last summer. My son didn't cry which shocked me! On day 1 I stayed for the first 2 hours (I was the ONLY mom who stayed). He was unsure of all the newness and the routine and it helped for me to be there. (he was also newly 4 and had NEVER been left with anyone anywhere so this was a huge deal). Once the kids got "into" the craft project and centers I told him school was almost over (an hour left) and I would be waiting right outside in the car(and I did wait outside and cry my eyes out). I also got to see him go outside and ride bikes and interact with the teacher (while I was in my car) which really helped me. He was fine for several weeks and then he had 2 teary eyed weeks but then all was well again once they started with the christmas themed days.

ALso, I always try to be first at drop off and I am also always the last one to leave. I play with him, have him show me things in the classroom-interact with the other kids and chat with the teacher. Typical drop off is usually a 20-25min process but it really helps both of us even now in the spring. PLus I feel like I really know the kids and what they are doing in class and I have a great relationship with the teacher-all this helps.
Good luck......I remember being in your shoes not long hard to let them grow up and to leave them. I lost a lot of sleep and cried a lot of tears over sending him to preschool.
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#8 of 14 Old 04-01-2010, 11:24 PM
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My son just started preschool last month and I was very concerned too. He was excited to go but not so sure about being there on his own. We went for a visit together and then the next day I had planned to stay the whole time but when we talked about it he thought it would be ok if I left the room but not the building. So he chose a spot he'd feel comfortable with me waiting (Just outside the door on a chair). He did great, he knew I was close by. The following class he asked me to wait again for a bit and then he was ok if I left. It only took a few classes before I was able to leave after just a few minutes.

Could you two talk about a plan together; what she would be comfortable with?

On another note, as a former Kindergarten teacher, I always told the parents it was best to give a kiss and go. The kids might be upset for a couple of minutes but they were always distracted by their playmates and playing happily in no time. In my experience as a Kindergarten teacher it was always harder on the parents then on the kids. Now as a parent I find my previous words of advice a little harder to follow.
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#9 of 14 Old 04-02-2010, 02:22 AM
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At DS's school they let me sit out in the hallway outside his classroom for three weeks. Then I moved down to the lounge t the end of the hall for a week. Then I told him I was going to go run an errand for 20 minutes while he was at school and I'd be back in a little while. The next day I ran longer errands. After that I could just drop him off no problem.

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#10 of 14 Old 04-02-2010, 03:20 AM
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i think that kids are scared that you aren't going to be there to pick them up when class is over. i know that was the issue with my daughter. i'd say, reassure her over and over that you absolutely promise to be there to pick her up after class. and make total sure that you are *on time* for that pick up!

we read a book about preschool, i think it was "DW's Guide to Preschool" (from the Arthur series). she talks about how some kids cry when the parents leave them, but she doesn't think it's any big deal, the parents always return at the end of the class. and at the end of the book, she says, see, i told you the parents would return.

if you already stayed with her for one session, just tell her that from now on, it's only for kids. and point out how all the other kids stay there without their parents.

expect a little nervousness, but don't let her see yours. promise her whatever she sees as a reward afterwards, and tell her to have a GREAT time.

my DD loves her preschool. for her the initial aprehension was only fear that i wouldn't come and get her afterwards. once she realized that i will always be there to pick her up, there's a trust established, and now she's totally relaxed about it.

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#11 of 14 Old 04-03-2010, 11:24 PM
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DD was younger than your child when she first started. Our school had a few days before things started, an orientation period I guess you'd call it, when parents and kids could drop in. We tried to spend as much time there as possible. My one specific suggestion from that experience is to try leaving for short, predefined periods - "I'm going to go use the bathroom, I'll be back in 5 minutes." It only took 2 or 3 short trips out before she seemed utterly unfazed about it. She never cried. I'd been worried about leaving her since she's kind of shy, but when we left her for the real school day she was absolutely fine.
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#12 of 14 Old 04-04-2010, 01:00 AM
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Another book you can bring home is "The Kissing Hand" - very sweet story about a raccoon who doesn't want to go to school. You might cry reading this one (I almost sniffled this morning and I've read it a bunch of times!). This one shows mama having a hard time leaving too. Worth reading
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#13 of 14 Old 04-05-2010, 05:22 AM
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I've been leaving my dd, now 5.5, for the whole day since she was a wee babe, first with a friend, and since 2.5 years, at preschool.

One thing I learned the hard way was not to sneak out without saying goodbye when you see that the child is engaged in something else. It is momentarily easier for the parent, but (obviously in retrospect) it makes the child suspicious of getting engaged in anything, and I think it undermines security and certainty. The child thinks she knows the basic lay of the land (mom is still here) and then she turns around & everything is different than she assumed.

Better, instead, to brave the moment of tears or protest, than to avoid it by withdrawing unseen, only to make your kid wonder all the time if you are going to vanish without warning. Not sure why this was not clear to me at the time, but I too was a wimp about the separation tears.

I've also learned over time that dd does much better when she has a lot of advance warning with which to process things that unsettle her. She's gone on some trips with her dad & been away from me for 7-10 days at a time several times. Each time she gets very upset a while ahead, and then sort of steels herself & says goodbye to me in a meaningful way a few hours before the actual departure. When it's time to actually part, she's all cool and blase about it. I actually really admire how she handles such things & it has led me to stop avoiding difficult issues with her. Instead, it works best to get them out & let her deal with & process them in her own time & fashion.

For any crying and despair when you actually leave (this ended more than a year ago at dd's preschool, but thinking back), I found that it is extraordinarily helpful for a teacher to come & physically embrace your child and gently both reassure her that someone there sees that she is upset & cares, and then also to lead her in the direction of an interesting activity as soon as you leave.

For us too, the Kissing Hand was great. I did not read the book with dd but we just made up our own kissing hand ritual which she needed until recently. I kissed her hand, folded her fingers around it, & she kept the kiss all day in case she needed it.

Finally, I concur that knowing what you are doing while she is at school, why this is necessary or a good thing in your opinion, and exactly how & when you will be reunited, is really important.

Good luck & hugs!

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#14 of 14 Old 04-05-2010, 02:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies and ideas, everyone.

I just got home from dropping her off, and it went well--although I guess I don't know how she was once I left.

She freaked out before I left (I had already mentioned that I would be leaving once they started baking their "friendship muffins".) I had walked away from where she was playing to get a diaper for DS, and I guess DD didn't hear me tell her. I assume she looked up and thought I had gone for the day.
Anyway, we talked it through--she kept saying she didn't want me to leave, but by the time muffin-making came around she was ok with it.

And, yes, there were some tears on my part as I drove away!

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