Education · Mom stories · Personal

Surviving Preschool Drop Off: How to Help Kids Overcome Meltdowns

Picture this:

Your child is about to enter the classroom, so you open the doorknob and hopes your child goes in. You flash a happy smile and tells him/her: Youre gonna have fun in school. And just as he/she is about to step inside… a shriek of fear, buckets of tears, and flying bags are what “salubong sayo”

Picture this:

You go inside the classroom your child follows and when you are about to exit, shouting, screaming, and a loud cry follows. The teacher holds your child to let you get out of the room. Outside you can still hear your child crying and searching for you.

All these are heartbreaking. And every single situation is from real life experience. For the first month of Enzo in preschool we had this situation every time we drop him off in school. They say its tough love but how can any parent endure to hear and see their children cry and struggle during drop off at school. Because of this situation I could not post any photos of him in school because we were still transitioning. And it was not pretty, it was horrible. It was frustrating because he had gone to summer school in the same school last May and we did not have any problem with dropping him to school. So it was really a wonder why he was acting that way.

We did everything we could possibly think of. I also read articles online, and experiences of other moms who also had the same problem. Everyday we would use a new strategy, or stayed with a strategy that worked for him. But nothing seemed to be working. It was really disheartening for us, and I though maybe I enrolled him too early. Maybe he wasn’t ready yet. However, we knew he loved being in school cause he would say he enjoyed it every time he went home. He would share stories of their activities, and what he and his classmates did, so we knew he was okay at school. But, when morning came, and we would leave him in the door of their classroom, he became a different child, it was totally a different story.

After more than a month, I can now claim that Enzo no longer has drop off meltdowns in school. He would skip going to school, gives a salute to Kuya Dax the guard, greets his teachers merrily, and waves and kiss goodbye to me smoothly. It really is a satisfying moment. So now, I am more confident to share some bits of lessons and strategies we did to help him during drop offs in school.
1. Bring something at home to make him feel comfortable. This worked for a while but he would still look for me and cry if I wasn’t there. He brought toy soldiers in school and it worked like a charm for two days. His classmates and teacher saw it and so he wanted to show it to them. After a while, it did not work anymore. He says he’d rather play his soldiers at home. So we needed to think of another strategy.

Playful Life With Kids Surviving Preschool Drop Off 2
2. Tough love. Leave immediately let them cry cause after 5 minutes they’ll stop. It worked for a while but there was an instance where Enzo told me “Gumagawa ako ng puzzle na butterfly pagtingin ko wala ka na” I took it as trust. I felt as if I betrayed him. I was afraid this would have a lasting effect on his trust on me.

3. Give him something that will remind you of him. I read that children feel a separation anxiety from their parents so giving them a “piece of us” or “piece of their parents” will make them feel assured that Mom and Dad is just there. We made a soldier necklace, where each carried a two-way radio, and I told him he’ll just message me whenever he misses or thinks of me. Also told him, I’ll bring my own soldier so I would message him too whenever I miss him.
4. Talk about his feelings. I realized as parents that we really need to listen and ask our children. First, Enzo told me he got scolded by his teacher. So I talked to his teacher but he still acted the same even if the teacher already talked to us. I found out later on it wasn’t really the cause of his tantrums. One, he was still adjusting to his dad leaving abroad to work. Second, he did not want me to go away immediately after drop off. I guess he wanted an assurance that I won’t leave or that his dad will return to us. It was something I had to figure out and he had to experience and fully express to me. So what worked?
5. For the next weeks, I stayed in school and waited for him. When he was about to throw yet another explosive tantrums I went to the waiting area near the guard and told him “I’ll see you later. I’ll stay here with Kuya Dax.” When he saw me sit down, he asked me “Dito ka lang bantay mo lang ako”. I said yes, and he went to class smoothly. That was my hallelujah! The next day he asked me again and I told him I’ll stay with kuya dax again. He went in without crying. The next days were successful but still I waited in school. I also had to request for a much later teaching load at work so I could wait for him and bring him home or bring him to school with me after he’s done. I gained his trust back and just as we were to hit our 6th week everything was good! He would tell me he enjoyed school, that he misses his classmates, and he is sad when there’s no school. I knew when he said that, that we had succeeded!

As one of my mommy blogger friend told me, “Dahan dahan lang, and he’ll get used to it.” I also had a great support from my Occupational Therapist friend who shared with me some tips that served valuable to us which are:
A. Acknowledge the feeling. I always assured him that Dad’s going back here in                   the Ph and that I’ll come home everytime after work.
B. No physical prompt, no eye contact, no direct communication after drop off.                   Just say “See you later” and go.
C. Look at it as a phase your child needs to experience and see it as a good                             opportunity for them to grow.
D. After school, provide social phrases like “You did a good job today” to                                 reinforce the behavior of not crying during drop off.

Everyday is a different day. We experienced two days of no crying on drop off but on the third day he screamed and cried again. Don’t get frustrated and just work on it again the next day. Eventually it will get better. It was a struggle before but now Enzo is excited to go to school and he enjoys it. He tells me stories of their activities in class and he looks forward to going to class everyday.

Drop offs in school used to be a struggle, it was a horrible experience and it was one of the daily tasks I dreaded to face during the first month. But now, he even skips and runs to class, sometimes even forgets to say goodbye to me, and says: “Okay lang, magwork ka mommy kasi andun naman sila Adam (his favorite classmate) at si teacher”. I can finally breathe and minsan to be honest ako pa ata ang nasesepanx when he goes to class.

It was good opportunity for both of us to grow as a parent and a child. It also strengthened our parent-child relationship, and I learned to always listen to my child with openness and sensitivity. I learned to never compare him to others and just work on “our own selves” every time. I got stressed looking at him throw tantrums at class but I realized he felt that I was anxious and stressed so he showed it as well. So I realized we are indeed a team and we need to work with each other than against each other. Its funny how its just his first few months in schooling but we have learned and grown a lot. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us!

Do you have any drop off horror stories? Share them with me and let’s talk. If you are also experiencing it now, know that you have someone like me who experienced the same thing, kaya natin yan!

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12 thoughts on “Surviving Preschool Drop Off: How to Help Kids Overcome Meltdowns

  1. Ohh this was my problem with my 4yrs.old son..When we’re at the house he was very happu and cheerfully telling me stories on his journey and activities at school or when I fetched him from school he was ecxited to show the stars he got from his activities..But it was so hard when I bring him at school cause he would cry a lot,get his bag and want to go home with me..I would ask for his teacher’s help to hold him so I could go outside and go home to help her eldest sister to go to school too.Its was very heartbreaking for me..I’d even let him bring 1 small superhero toy and told him that he should think of the toy as it would accompany him when I’m not at his side or when I go out of his room.But the his teacher told me they didn’t allow any toys to bring inside the room.And now my mother-in-law brings him to school without any crying moments,And everytime I tried to bring him he would end up crying..What should I do he’s in Daycare,and I can feel that it would be the same when he reached on kinder,1st grade and so on?….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Aica, we had the same strategies and luckily for me he is somehow adjusting to drop offs already. It’s a good thing you have your MIL to bring your child to school, I think they really act up when we are the ones who drop them off. I think you should just let your MIL bring him to school and eventually he’ll get used to going to school and he’ll probably won’t care if it was you or your MIL who will bring him then. Don’t worry too much sis, he’s still young and he’ll grow through it. Basta be involved with him and his school activities even if its not you who drops him off. Still ask him how his day was and maybe ask him if you can bring him to school and he won’t cry. Tapos trial and error lang sis! Kaya natin yan!:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dilemma din namin to sa twinboys nung nagstart na sila sa school. These are good tips. We actually experimented a few options din para malaman namin kung paano ba hindi na sila iiyak kapag iniwan namin sila sa school. So far, our last option (which is Lola na nila yung naghahatid) is quite doing well. Hindi sila umiiyak and they interact really well with the kids and the teachers. Siguro masyado lang siguro talaga silang emotional kapag ako or yung papa nila yung naghahatid sa kanila.

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  3. Buti na lang when the kids are at this age, I didn’t have a hard time sa first day at preschool. But I know the feeling kasi I’ve seen some kids na talagang iyak nang iyak when their parents leave na..

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  4. These are truly heartwarming pieces of advice coming from a hands-on mom. I admire you for being such a sensitive mom to your Enzo and able to understand his fears and needs as he goes to school.

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  5. I can imagine how hard it must have been for you guys to have experienced that although I never had trouble with that when my two girls were young. With our two boys now, I won’t experience that as well because they are homeschooled. But it’s great that you were able to overcome it and can now share some helpful tips. For sure, there will be others who will be able to put them to good use.

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  6. I’ve been planning to enroll my kid to a playschool, now, my husband doesn’t want to because he knows our little girl is going to scream and cry her lungs out once we leave her in the classroom, but reading your article, I think this will really help. Will show this to my husband, too hehe

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  7. The pain is real =D send my eldest son to his first day in school was easy, he blended well and actually enjoyed meeting new friends, so I thought it would be the same for my second born. Unfortunately it wasn’t as smooth sailing, he eventually blended in cool, but not after a week of unfortunate crying and wailing.

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  8. A dilemma every parent has to deal with once their little ones reach the preschool age. Those are helpful tips. I never had these terror drop-off stories when my little one was in preschool but I remember vividly how he managed to escape from the classroom without his teacher knowing with plans of going home! 😀 What worked for us is telling him outright whether mum is leaving after dropping him off or staying until he finishes class for the day. I do not think I would have the heart to leave my little one without saying goodbye 😦 And, yes, bringing something that would make him feel comfortable and remind him of home also works wonders. In my son’s case his cloth diaper he fondly calls “Bib,” he still uses them even now that he is in Grade 3.

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