Dropping off at daycare

Question: We have recently moved. My daughter is only 15 minutes away from our old home, but the move required a new daycare facility. She is five. My husband has been dropping her off for the last two years, and she has never had a problem. Now, it is necessary for me to drop her off because it is on my way to work. I had her at a daycare that I had researched and spent a day or two watching how things are done. It seemed like a great place, however, every time I dropped her off she would cry and cling on to me. The ladies would have to pry her away. This has been a shock to me, as we have not had any disciplinary problems with my daughter that are out of the norm since she’s alive! I gave her four or five weeks to “get adjusted” and the problem starting getting worse so that she would begin crying after getting in the car in the mornings when she knew it was time to go. I couldn’t take it any longer and switched daycare’s again to see if it really was that place. All she would tell me is that she cried because she missed me so much. It makes me feel horrible. The newest daycare (currently using) was great the first couple of days, and now she is beginning the same thing all over again. I’m going crazy. I’ve tried getting in and out as quickly as possible. I’ve tried rewarding her and reprimanding her. I’m at a loss and I’m on the edge. I’m almost thinking of paying someone else to take her in the morning so that we don’t continue this. My husband cannot take her in the mornings. In the evening when I pick her up (from both of the “new” places) she was fine and happy. I don’t understand. What should we do??|
– Wendy

Answer: The most telling piece of information that you’ve given is that when you pick up your daughter, she is “fine and happy.” Every time you feel uncertain about your daycare choices, every time you are confused and frustrated with the morning drive, visualize your daughter playing and adapting to her school. I can reassure you that your choice of schools is a good one.

In order to build additional confidence in your choice of schools, I recommend deliberately collecting positive information about the school and its staff:

  • Talk to other satisfied parents about how the school has helped them with transitions or with a child’s individual needs and experiences
  • Visit the school during odd times during the day (your lunch, for example) and “catch them” doing sensitive and interesting things
  • Build relationships with the teachers and administrators. Children’s actions can throw doubt on even the best parenting decisions. Your success depends on your belief that you are taking your daughter to a nurturing and exciting place.

If the “morning” situation is not about the quality of the school, what is it? It seems to be about change, transitions and being 5 years old. Many things changed: a new home, a new school, and mom instead of dad doing drop off. While four or five weeks to “get adjusted” may be enough time for parents to keep a diary of progress, it may inadvertently add to the pressure of a volatile situation. A better message might be that you are willing and able to help your daughter no matter how long it takes. That’s why we’re here – to help you feel ready and able!

In the face of many changes, the morning routine needs to be clear and predictable. You can build excitement by talking about the wonderful things that will happen in school, the new friends that are looking forward to playing with your daughter, and the teacher who thinks she is so special. If talking about it creates anxiety for your daughter, keep it short and sweet. Have the backpack or lunch boxes filled and ready to go. Have yourself ready and available with an uncluttered mind. Give your daughter a “job” to do in the car: to watch the road and tell you where to turn, to read road signs, to tell you the color of the traffic lights before you get to them, or to sing you a song. Find something that will keep her mind busy and useful. Take her into school or to the drop off point with decisiveness and love, letting her know that you are happy with her school and proud that she is going to have a great day.

Now comes the moment of parenting magic, when parents must act as if they really know. If your daughter is crying or clingy, you must redirect her to the positive experience that awaits her. You must remain steadfast in your “plan” with the knowledge that when you return at the end of the day, she will be happy. You must trust your caregivers. You need not do any of this alone. Speak to the teacher and to the director of the school. They are your partners and now your extended family. Listen to their experience and together you will do the best thing for your daughter.

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.


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