There’s No Crying in Preschool: When Drop Offs Trigger the Tears


We recently received a Mommy SOS from a mom looking for advice on how to handle her daughter crying at preschool morning drop-offs, and I couldn’t help but sympathize because I have been dealing with the same thing myself.  My daughter, Ilse, and I had an excellent stretch in February and a week in March, but after I returned from a week-long trip to New York for work, we were back to square one. She sobbed at drop off and screamed when I left. This has carried on for almost two weeks. I tried bribery (a trip to Target, chocolate, her tablet), extra hugs, the quick escape. Nothing worked. What was I missing?! How could I make drop-off a better experience for her? For us? Here are my top three tips for addressing crying at preschool.

Talk about the drop-off with your child on your way to school.

Every morning, on our quick, ten-minute drive to school, Ilse and I talk about the day. I talk to her about the weather, the importance of being kind to others, and the drop-off. We talk about what will happen at drop-off and what snacks she has to eat. We also talk about “no crying at the drop-off.” I assure her that either her father or myself will be picking her up after school. Talking about the drop-off at the beginning of the day helps Ilse understand that this is part of our daily routine and that I will be back. Additionally, we also talk about different reasons why she might cry (she is physically hurt or feeling sad) and how to address those situations. Having that daily discussion before school reinforces the expected behavior of “not crying.”

Talk to the teachers.

I’ve talked before about the importance of making friends with her child’s teachers, so I felt comfortable asking her teachers what Ilse did in the mornings after I left. They told me that she played with certain toys and ate her snacks at a desk. Rather than make a quick departure, I’ve spent a few extra minutes helping her get settled at a desk with her favorite toys and snacks. I also remind her of our morning talk before we arrived at school. Helping my daughter get settled at school has really helped to put her mind at ease that even though I am leaving for work I will return.

Don’t give up.

Dealing with a crying child day in and day out can be exhausting for both parent and child. My daughter’s preschool reassures me that crying at the drop-off is normal for the first few months, but a part of me feels guilty for subjecting her,  the teachers, and her new classmates to this behavior. But it’s important to not give up and to stay positive. At the end of any given day, we talk to Ilse about her day and the morning, focusing on her feelings and activities. “Did you have fun at school today? Can you tell me about your day?” After nearly two weeks, llse’s behavior has started to turn around. She ended this past week with two smiling drop-offs and one the week prior. It’s a start that we can build on.

I am still trying to comprehend why my child has continued to cry at drop-offs. I don’t think my daughter completely understands herself. That’s okay. We will continue to address those feelings together every day because a behavioral change does not happen overnight. I also don’t want her to think that the act of crying is bad and that she should never cry. At Ilse’s age, sometimes crying is the only way to express a feeling or a thought when she doesn’t have the words for them. So, we will keep trying as a family every day at the preschool drop-off.  One day, there will be no crying in preschool.


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