Does your child cry or complain of stomach problems every time you drop them off at school?
I often have people calling asking me: “How do I help my son/daughter transition in the morning when I drop them off at school because they cry every time I drop them off, but then they are fine the rest of the day”.
First, you have to do some investigating. Are they feeling safe, are they taken care of at school, is another child bullying them, do they have any medical problems? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to talk to their doctor (if it is a medical problem), teacher, the school counselor and/or the principal to make sure that your child does feel safe. If they aren’t feeling safe and you do nothing about it, they could grow up feeling unsupported and have other issues due to this feeling of abandonment.
If the answer is yes, that they do feel safe then the parent is usually the one who can make the biggest difference for them. Here are some things you can be doing at home:
Things you can do outside of the drop off:
1. Call and ask the teacher when would be a good time to talk outside of school hours and when your son or daughter is around to hear. Ask the teacher if they have any suggestions based on them knowing your child the best. Remember, teachers not only spend 6-8 hours a day with your child, but they also have experience in this very issue. Your child is probably not the first child the teacher has ever experienced with this issue.
2. Set up play dates with other kids in the class so that your child feels like they have something to look forward to. Often when kids have friends in the class, they can focus on the activities they will do with their friends that day and not on their fear/anxiety about not going to school. Also, when they get to school, they can focus on talking to their friends instead of focusing on missing you.
In the morning when you drop them off:
1. Decide if your child does better getting to school early and settling in and having some interactions with friends –OR- does your child do better getting dropped off right before the bell rings so they don’t have to sit and anticipate the separation.
2. When you drop them off, say a simple goodbye with a hug/kiss and tell them “I love you and I will be back at 3pm” (or whatever time school is over). Then leave and don’t look back. Make sure you are a few minutes early to pick them up every day. If you are late to pick them up once then that can feed into their fear that when they walk out of class, there is no one there for them.
3. Don’t engage in their stall tactics. When they ask you questions or start to cry, hold their hand, pass their hand to their teacher and walk out. Don’t linger or talk to the teacher at that moment. When you do this, it allows your daughter or son to see that you are nervous also. If they don’t think you have confidence in their success, why should they believe they will have a successful day.
If the problem continues, talk to a therapist. It may be that you can go in to get an individualized plan without having to bring in your child to see the therapist. If you are looking for individual therapy for your child in Long Beach, please give me a call to ask me a question or to set up an appointment.