Updated: Oct 22
Are you a parent or a childcare teacher?
If so you're very important to me. You're in a position to shape the world and I want you to know you are valued and supported in your desire to bring the best possible outcomes to the children you care for.
I'm here to try to help you do just that. I'd love the chance to be able to value and support you as much as I can from behind this screen. After all, I've probably experienced some of the same issues as you have.
Over the course of a 45+ year career in early childhood and parent education, I've been a parent, a grandparent,
a preschool teacher, a child care administrator, a Head Start teacher, a before and after school director, a family child care provider, a kindergarten teacher a special education aide, and more.
I like to reflect on what I've really learned and I try to apply some of the scientific research that's been happening since the 1990's to what we actually do and say with young children.
I'd also like to take some of that research and turn it into everyday ideas and words that we can use when caring for real children.
If the theories based on research are sound, but they don't translate well to practice, then we need to start to understand why that is and fix it.
I don't know everything about parenting or teaching but one thing I do know is that we owe it to ourselves to care for ourselves and to care for each other. We need to listen and try to understand each other, even when it's not a bed of roses. We may even want to practice some "radical self-care"!
Sometime during my career as an early childhood educator, I realized that bringing parents and providers together was the best way to go for all. After all, we share the goal of providing what's best for the child. But the details of life and the stress of the huge responsibility we face can be daunting and cause problems with communication.
Overall, I think that when parents and providers are committed to open communication, even when things are getting sticky, it can be really awesome. But it's not always easy.
It's really hard in the mornings. So much is expected of us, parents and teachers alike before we get to that moment. Then, when the child resists the transition, we're suddenly on the spot.
Of course, there are many things we can do before that moment of reckoning to ease the transition but in this article, I'm going to focus on what to do when it all falls apart. It will, no doubt, and we have to cope, stay calm, and keep the day moving forward for the sake of everyone.
There are many different reasons a child might resist being dropped off at care. It could just be a phase, even if they're happy in the situation.
Speaking of being happy, your children will not only be happier to go to child care but also actually learn a lot more if the environment is focussed on PLAY!
It's true and I'm including this link to The Harvard Center On The Developing Child that brings you to a short and really exciting video about exactly how play works to make your children both happier and smarter.
There are no cookie-cutter solutions for this issue. When the parent and the provider know and trust each other, the problem will be resolved with the best possible outcome for all.
There are 2 ways that timing might affect this situation. The first is the age of the child. Children around the age of 9 months might experience separation anxiety and children around the age of two might experience temporary oppositional behavior due to growing up and needing to learn appropriate ways and times to assert themselves.
Knowing this may or may not make it any easier!
The second way timing makes a difference is in the time of day. If the child gets dropped off at a time when they're tired or hungry, it might cause a chaotic drop-off. In fact, any change in the schedule at all might cause havoc.
What can I do?
Stay calm and work together. Keep the best interests of the child in mind always.
Some possible solutions:
The Good-Bye Window
In this one, the parent says goodbye once inside the classroom and then once by touching fingers through a screen window.
I also see parents waving to windows and blowing kisses often as they leave.
The book called The Goodbye Window was written about the Red Caboose Center in Madison WI that developed the screen method above. It highlights the year proceeding it becoming the first unionized child care center in Wisconsin. I included a link to it in the resources below.
The No-Contact Drop-Off
This is the way it's done in many centers now. The child is dropped off in a neutral space with a greeter who then brings the child into their classroom. I've never worked like this since I've been my own boss for over 30 years and I believe in talking with parents every day.
I also have to set boundaries around that talking sometimes. I can see the advantages to this type of drop-off as far as allowing the teachers and children to go on with their schedules. Call me old-fashioned if you want but I just can't see using this myself.
This is one of my absolute favorites because it can be adjusted for any child or any situation. And it works!
In it, the teacher and parent work together to create a book about the morning. They describe the morning routine using simple words and figures.
That way it's set in writing and the child can see the progression of how it will go.
I'm attaching a copy of one I made as an example. Just click the photo and you'll be able to see the whole book. Stick figures work just fine. Kids have imaginations after all.
The Linear Schedule
This is a good way to show the child what will be happening during the day in a visual way.
I've used this often and it seems to be quite reassuring. You can use a clothesline approach like the one below, adding the segments of your own schedule. If there is a change like a field trip or a visitor, it's easy to add without creating a whole new schedule.
If the child attends school on some days and stays home on others, this could be useful at home. example: Monday-Stay Home, Tuesday-Go To Nanci's etc.
Sing, Show, or Move!
In this one, I adjust the method to the child on an individual basis.
If it's a child who is very physical, we might blow kisses (the child chooses how many), do high fives, or even have the child gently push the parent out the door. I heard one idea in which the child would walk around the room and show the parent 3 of their favorite toys.
I've had children who enjoyed being "thrown" into the arms of the provider. Some would run to my lap when they decided it was time.
With a child who is auditory, I might activate a singing toy, or sing quietly in their ear as I hold them. Some like to recite a poem like this one or choose one book to read with their parents.
A child who likes visual things might look at the birdies out the window, or check out anything new and interesting in the room today.
Each of these methods may or may not work. Keep trying and keep playing, you'll come up with something!
I think the best idea is to come up with a good routine and stick to it consistently. That way the child will know what to expect and learn to cope with it.
Remember to validate their feelings without allowing them to be out of control.
It looks like you're feeling worried, is that right?
All Feelings are OK but all actions (and words) are not!!
PS No matter how tempting it is to leave when your child is distracted, don't do it. The problem with this is that it encourages a little bit of mistrust in you. You're better off when your child believes your words. In order for that to happen you have to tell the truth. Find a way to say goodbye that works for you. You'll all be happier for it!
Thanks for reading!
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! (click on the word) She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.
Brown, Harriet, The Goodbye Window, University of Wisconsin Press; 1st edition (October 12, 1998)
Harvard Center on the Developing Child, website retrieved on 9/14/2023
Satellite, Sojourn Provider group discussion 9/14/23
Shore, Rima, Re-ThinkingThe Brain: New Insights Into Early Development, Families and Work Institue, (1997)