By: Em Cruz
“Mommy don’t go!”
“Mommy, I don’t want to go to school!”
“Mommy, don’t leave meeee!!!”
Ask any parent or teacher, such cries are quite normal during the first few days of school in kinder or preschool hallways. Parents of young kids will know that the excitement of preparing for school goes hand in hand with that concern and worry that our kid will be that kid who cries rivers at school drop-off.
Admittedly, I was the same when I was in preschool. I cried to the high heavens for my mom to not leave me in school. So when it was my daughter’s turn to go, I was a bit worried that she would be the same as well and was prepared to sit in her class for the first few days. But apparently, she’s a lot tougher than me as she handled her first day and all the days thereafter in school tears and tantrum-free.
As my daughter has proven, first-day school blues is not namamana but depends more on the child’s personality. It can be attributed to the fact that some preschoolers have a harder time adjusting to change than others, or their personality is more cautious or slow to adapt in new situations — which is completely understandable as the same holds true for adults.
The good news is, school drop-off tantrums are normal and kids will calm down sooner or later (some stop crying as soon as class starts). But if your child shows no signs of letting up on the waterworks every morning and its already stressing you out, then here are a few things you can try:
Keep it positive.
If your child resists going to school even before you leave the house, do not talk about school in a negative way, as it only confirms to your child that he should not be at school. You do this by saying:
- “Yehey, there’s no school tomorrow!” — whenever it’s a holiday or classes are canceled, it somewhat tells your kid that no classes are a good thing.
- “I’ll take all your toys away if you cry today” — which is, let’s admit it, an empty threat. Plus, it adds more pressure to your child and you’re not helping him deal with change.
- “We can go to Jollibee after school if you don’t cry today” — be careful of giving incentives or bribes, as this might become your child’s main reason for going to school. Ideally, he should understand the importance and reasons why he should go and not go just because of the promise of Jollibee or a toy.
Explain and tell your child that everyone went to school at some point in their lives — including you. Tell him stories of your school days and what you loved about it and highlight the things he can do in his school that he could not do anywhere else.
Keep a routine and stick to it.
Routines can be a big help in making kids feel more relaxed and prepared. Try to leave home and arrive at the school at the same time each day. Along the way, you can also help your child prepare himself mentally by telling him what’s coming next — such as getting into the car, driving to school, approaching his classroom, seeing and playing with his friends, and the start of class. And of course, be there to greet him and pick him up once the final bell rings. Putting more structure into his day will comfort your child and allow him to build trust that you or someone will always be coming back for him.
Bring a friend.
A stuffed animal friend that is, or any toy that can comfort him. Help your child adjust to the changes going to school brings in his life by letting him bring something familiar into his “new” environment. Although some schools might not allow this, you can try to ask your child’s teacher if it would still be possible to do so if you think that it would help your child’s sepanx. You can tuck a small toy in his bag and ask him to not take it out in class. The thought that his friend is with him in his bag, waiting for him at the end of the day can do wonders for his general mood for the day.
Always kiss and go.
It can be tempting to tiptoe out when your child is otherwise occupied with his teacher or a friend during school drop-off, but DO NOT do so. Doing so might lead to harder and more tears in the days ahead as your child will learn NOT TO TRUST you. Instead, say a proper goodbye by kissing him, wishing him a good day ahead, and leaving.
Do not threaten.
We’ve said it before in the first one and we’ll say it again, do not threaten your child or say something along the lines of — “You better not cry this time,” or “Please don’t cry today.” Doing so will just increase his stress and thereby result in higher chances of tears. Instead, try to empathize with your child by saying, “I know how hard this is for you, but can we try to find some ways to make it better?” Or “I feel you, what can I do to make it better?”
Give some positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement will always do wonders for your child and the same applies to school drop-off blues too. When you pick him up, acknowledge what happened during drop-off (if there was a bit or a lot of tears) and try to make him feel good about how he handled it. Ask him how his school day went and if he says he had fun, you can tell him something along the lines of “I’m glad you were able to deal with your nervousness and had a great day.”
Consider a change.
If you have already tried all the tips and tactics you can think of and he’s still crying at drop-off, then perhaps its time to consider a school change. Parents should also consider whether the school, their way of teaching, and even the teacher to student ratio is the right fit for our kids. Some kids who are kinesthetic and active learners might not do well in a traditional setup, while other kids might find a big class too overwhelming.
Em is MomCenter’s editor and a doting mom to a decisive yet sweet daughter. When she doesn’t have her hands full of motherhood, she moonlights as a geek and bibliophile. Follow her mom-adventures via her Instagram.