22 answers

HELP With a Smoother Kindergarten Drop-off

I am at a loss as to how to make my 5 year old son's drop off to his public school kindergarten easier for him. We moved on Thanksgiving Day and he started full-day kindergarten (what the public school offers) after the Christmas break. He has never had preschool before, this is his first schooling experience. He cries and clings to me and darts after me, leaving his classroom. When that fails, he resorts to being physical towards me, punching at me and being defiant verbally, telling me "no, no, no." I have tried postivie reinforcement, rewarding him, giving him little notes to hold onto, even loss of privileges at home. I've tried getting him there both a little earlier than class time, and even a little later, into the class time. Nothing is working. He has been going now for the month of January, and I would like to think, would've adjusted by now. His teacher assures me that after about 1/2 hour of grumpiness, he is fine. It breaks my heart and literally leaves me sick in the stomach to leave like this every morning. He is fine at home (a bit hesitant knowing he's going to school), fine in the car, and fine walking to his classroom. It's the actual leaving him there and knowing the separation is inevitable and happening, that totally freaks him out?

Anything I'm missing, or haven't tried? His teacher is very nice, but young and a first year teacher, who hasn't offered me any suggestions.

Thanks, please help asap! I can't make him (or me) continue going through this......

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

My son attends a montessori school which usually have "drop offs" meaning one of the staff or teachers takes my son out of the car and he walks into the school (assisted). Therefore, there is no mommy-walking-away and tears. There are ages 2.9 to 6.9 who attend this school - no crying around. Maybe you could ask a teacher/aide to meet you and call it "drop off." I've always thought parents crowding elementary school hallways causes too much chaos for those sweet little minds :)

Hello S.,

I would say the only thing you CAN do is request a change of classrooms. You are a wonderful mom and there's nothing else you can do. He knows that he's winning. Now it's time to ask for the approapriate help from school. Other teachers will know what to do and will not put up with that!
IF that's not possible try talking to him at bedtime or when you have a "moment" with him and tell him what you expect from him. That works for my son.

PS-My 5yr. had the same in preschool!

More Answers

I noticed that you are a Navy wife as well. Has your husband been gone off and on? This may be why your son does not want you to leave either. I was an Army wife and know this first hand. My son went to kindergarten through halfway into 2nd and he was the same exact way...until 2nd grade and he was making himself sick over it. Everyone that I shouldn't have listened to said that sending him was the right thing to do. I even would stay in the parking lot during kindergarten, so that he could see me out the window! I tried everything as well. I finally decided my gut feeling was right and I pulled the children out and homeschooled all the way through. This gave them the security that I was not leaving them, as their dad had to be gone quite a bit with the military. This was during the early 90's(desert storm). It was hard and children hear all kinds of things regarding war and they do wonder if their dad is okay. Some of the kids at his school would say things, even at that young age, about what they heard on the news.

He may just need an extra year at home or consider homschooling him. It is a lot of fun!

While I may not have useful advice, I do empathize with you as I went through this with my daughter. It went on for months- I would say about 3-4 months and then we were home free. You say it has only been the month of January? Maybe it will get easier soon...It sounds like you have tried a lot of the same things I did. I finally had to get there early and have one of the school staff walk her down to the classroom. Me walking her all the way down to the classroom seemed to escalate things. It is heartbreaking, yes....she still clung to me even though drop off was in the lobby! Best of luck.

Your child naturally wants to be with you. 5 is too young to sending your kid off. Look into homeschooling him at least for a few years, until he feels comfortable leaving you for extended periods of time. Home schooled kids are happy and very well adjusted and not made to feel badly about loving their parents and wanting to be with them. I home schooled my kids and it worked out well for us. It's worth trying even if only for a few years.

Hello S.,

I would say the only thing you CAN do is request a change of classrooms. You are a wonderful mom and there's nothing else you can do. He knows that he's winning. Now it's time to ask for the approapriate help from school. Other teachers will know what to do and will not put up with that!
IF that's not possible try talking to him at bedtime or when you have a "moment" with him and tell him what you expect from him. That works for my son.

PS-My 5yr. had the same in preschool!

Staying and coddling him at school allows his emotions to escalate. When you get to school, say goodbye and walk away. Resist the temptation to stay and make him feel better. The teacher will handle him. Although it will be hard for a week or so, eventually the behavior will subside and he'll realize that throwing a fit doesn't get him anything.

You have received some great advice about pictures of you on the desk, shirt, etc, or having an adult come get him out of the car, writiing/telling him a story, etc. I think these are all great suggestions. I do not think you have to resort to changing classrooms or pulling him out of school. He needs the consistency. If he's fine when he's at school, it sounds like it's a matter of really setting him up for success in the morning. At our school, parents do not normally escort their kids into the building. Kids are dropped off on the playground and escorted in with teachers. I think that helps a little bit with the separation anxiety.

What if, for example, you made up a rewards system where he would earn lunch with you (can you go in and eat lunch with him?) on Friday (or sooner if necessary) if he controlled his emotions better in the morning? Or perhaps you could dismiss him a few minutes early once a week for improving the mornig routine. Or, you could volunteer to bring in a snack for the class once a week. That way, his reward is time with you, but at an appropriate time and in an appropriate way.

Goodluck! (My son will be in K next year... should be interesting! I don't know if having me directly upstairs will be a good thing or a bad thing... but we'll see!)

my daughter would do the same thing and it broke my heart.like the teacher said to you hers said once your gone shes fine within a few minutes. what i did was laminated a picture of myself and pinned it to her shirt. believe it or not it worked.when she felt sad she could see me on her shirt. she had never had pre school either. you gotta remember its his first year in school and hasnt been away from u and all the other children and the whole routine of school is prbly very overwhelming for him. god luck

I can sympathize with you. I remember the days when I was dropping my son (who is now 6) at preschool when he was 3 and 1/2. He was also with his twin sister. Hang in there and don't give up. My son took about 1-2 months to stop crying at drop-off which was only 2 1/2 days per week. I remember the preschool teacher saying "this to shall pass" and it does. You have got to remember that at age 5, he has really gotten use to having you around. This is a big transition for him. I would suggest getting some books about school and talking about the benefits of learning (i.e. this how you can become an airplane pilot or whatever may be his interest). Also try to find out what aspect of school that he likes and talk about that. When I struggled with the transition, I tried to remind myself that I am teaching him some independence and sometimes huge developmental gains can be challenging. But once you are through the process, they are so rewarding and he will be so proud of himself. Maybe you could focus on the fact that he is upset for only 1/2 hour and try to lessen that time or say your teacher says that you do fine after a little bit of time to adjust. Also try to stay positive during drop-off (even if you have to fake it), kids can sometimes play off of our own conflicted emotions about saying goodbye to them. They told me to keep it short and sweet. Maybe talk to the teacher about having her or the class aide (I hope they have one) who can distract him while you make an exit. You also might minimize the focus on this issue at home (i.e. no charts or punishment), just do the drop-off, ask about his day and keep moving forward. I think sometimes kids feel pressure and fight any changes. He just may need some time to realize that this is part of life now and may need to change his attitude. I think he is doing pretty good if after 1/2 hour he is "doing fine" per the teacher. Good Luck and I hope some of this helps. Be strong and Be patient.

Hi S.,

Just wanted to let you know about an integrative healing process called The LifeLine Technique which can help to address the subconscious stress patterns that are manifesting as this transition behavior. Check out the website http://www.infiniteloveandgratitude.com/ for information on the founder Dr. Darren Weissman and the program itself. There may have a Certified LifeLine Practitioner in your area and could choose to work with them in person. I there is not one close enough to you I'd be happy to work with you (and your son) over the phone.

Also, your "about me" says you are a children's book author... I'd love if you'd be willing to share any information regarding the publishing process... the benefits if having or not having an agent... etc. I have a friend who writes amazing poetry and I'm working to support him in his process of figuring out 'the system', assuming there is one.. lol. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so Much! ~ R.

I have a 3rd grader, kindergartener and preschool. I think the only thing to do is be consistent. Talk with him on the way there about the routine. "I am going to drive you to school, walk you in, help you hang up your coat and then you are going to go into your class your and say hi to ____ and look at the choice board (whatever your school has) and then say a quick bye to mommy because I will be back like I always am in a short time." Then whatever you do don't hang around, say bye, you'll see in soon, you love him and walk away. The teacher should take over from there to comfort him as need be and he'll adjust fine, if she doesn't do that ask her or one of the assistants to. Sometimes new teachers need a little push to step in, give her a chance. If he does well reward him with one on one time as soon as you get home, make it special. As long as it is the same routine every time he'll adjust. Hang in there, the kids know just what they do to us, remember that. Good Luck :) from K. B


It can be torture leaving a little one like that, but the teacher is right they usually are fine shortly after you leave. In most cases it is best not to feed into the behavior in any way; neither positive or negative. It is simply time for school, let's go. Tell him you love him and I'll see you after school have a great day. Do not delay leaving when you drop him off, that is torture for both of you. It may be that your son is feeding off of your own separation anxiety (we all have it). If you behave like going to school is no big deal he probably will too. If you could have someone else that you trust drop him off that might be easier. The fact that this is his first experience away from home complicates matters and a full day can be very long for a kindergartner. If you really think he is not ready he certainly wouldn't be the first child to start kindergarten a year late. Boys especially mature late and if he is not ready to separate yet I say don't push it. If you decide to take him out it is imperative that you put him in a preschool program at least part time. It might be a more appropriate environment for him. Best Wishes.

J. L.

The Clinician in me would like to suggest creating a little book (which should be right up your ally!), it doesn't need to be anything fancy, just a simple book with very simple pictures that walk him through the morning routine. The key is that you must stick to the routine and keep the good-bye's as brief as possible (easier said then done, I know). Read the story every night. Here is what it might look like: "In the morning I eat breakfast with Mommy (*insert picture of breakfast foods)" (next pg) "Then we gather all my school stuff (*insert picture of generic school supplies)" (next pg) "We get into Mommy's car (*insert picture of a car)" (next pg) "And drive to school (*insert picture of school)" (next pg... and here's the important part!) "Mommy walks me to my classroom and says good-bye (*insert waving good-bye picture) (next pg) "I have lots of fun at school" "After school Mommy picks me up and we go home." ... You get the idea... perhaps we could get together to discuss creating books like this one to help other parents through similar situations (ie Dr's visits, Daddy goes on a business trip/navy excursion, etc)
I'd love to chat!
Hope this helps!!!

Hello S.,
I am a early childhood teacher, it is my first year teaching kindergaten, although I have taught many other age groups. Your son is probably still adjusting to school for the first time but also to a new home. Have you tried giving him a picture of you to hold on too while he is at school, so if he misses you he has a picture to comfort? As for leaving in the morning I have found that a quick drop off is best. Help him put him things away, leave him at the door with an I LOVE YOU and will be back at the end of the day and go. If there is a window let him wave to you as you drive off. If you can do that! (Go drive slow but don't stop and wave, that will make it harder!) I know it is hard to leave when he is upset but having experience he is probably alright after a 1/2 hour and goes on with his day. I encourage parents to call to check up to see how there child is doing if they had a difficult drop off. It seems like overall he enjoys school? If the teacher puts out a monthly calender with activities or curriculum talk with him about what is going to happen at school that day and get excited with him. Have the teacher tried to give him a job when he comes in in the morning? Maybe a special lunch he picks out if they bring there own? It will get easier, this is his first schooling experience.

I hope one of these suggestions help, and once you find a routine that works stick to it. :) Let me know how it goes, best of luck!

Use your talent for stories!

When we moved across country, my six year old daughter had a very hard time adjusting to our new home. She would often become very sad when we would return home after being out somewhere; she always needed to be in the same room as me. She reported "hating it here" and wanted to move back to California. I began telling her bedtime stories I called "Hazel in the House" stories... all about a little girl who moved to a new house which she hated. In each episode Hazel would end up discovering a secret passage door or magical character who lived in the house with whom she would have an adventure. Though I made some pretty obvious connections to our real-life situation, she never consciously called me on it. She stopped wanting books at night and always wanted a Hazel story instead. It's been over a month since I've told a Hazel story. She sleeps in her own room now, will play alone upstairs and seems much more adjusted. In fact she said to me recently that she loved this house and wanted to keep it for her children.

I know that yours is not the exact same problem, but they are both issues with transition. I was really shocked at the power of story to help with our transition and I bet it will help you too. Meditate first on what kind of story your son needs. Then keep it simple. Maybe it's the same story every night about a boy who at first is very scared to leave his mommy but somehow gets over it. Maybe it's a story about what a child's mommy does while the child is at school. Think about where his fear is and address it simply. My kid loves magic and fairies and all that; use what he likes. I'm not a psychologist, but story can be an effective tool.

What if you tried staying with him for a little bit, until he felt secure enough and felt you could leave, knowing that you'd be back.

I had a similar situation with my daughter, however she had been going to pre school and suddenly did not want me to leave. I know how hard it is to leave him, but the best thing to do it make the parting as quickly and quietly as possible. Say "mommy has to leave now, but I will pick you up when school is done" This reassures him you will be back. Do not say anything else. The more you say the more he worries and the more he will express his fear. All children go throught this anxiety, even my kindergartener has days where she does not want to leave me. Sometimes this can last as long at 3 months, I know you don't want to hear that, but I think the more consistent you are about leaving the better you will be. Tell the teacher to come get him as soon as you walk in the room, and then you have to leave as quickly as possible. If he chases after you, just keep walking, once he knows it bothers your or that he sees that what he is doing gets a response he will keep doing it. It is really hard to see our children get upset or sad when we leave them, but school and socialization are so important for them. He will make friends and explore whole new worlds.

My son attends a montessori school which usually have "drop offs" meaning one of the staff or teachers takes my son out of the car and he walks into the school (assisted). Therefore, there is no mommy-walking-away and tears. There are ages 2.9 to 6.9 who attend this school - no crying around. Maybe you could ask a teacher/aide to meet you and call it "drop off." I've always thought parents crowding elementary school hallways causes too much chaos for those sweet little minds :)

Did you try asking him what upsets him about going to school? Ask about his feelings and try to get him to talk about his fears. Reassure him that it is ok to feel that way, dont make him feel bad for having those feelings, and ask what would help him feel better. Let him know he has to go to school, there is no choice there, everyone goes, but ask what would make him feel better about going, maybe bringing something special from home, or leave him with something of yours so he knows you have to come back for him. My daughter is in pre-school and I have the opposite problem. She loves going there and pretty much dismissed me when we get there, the fight is to get her to leave!

Can you have a teacher (or other adult) come to the car or the front door to take him, so you don't have to walk him to his class? This might help with the transition. Also, make sure you aren't exhibiting ANY anxiety- I know how hard it is to leave our kids when they're upset, but as a toddler teacher who works on separation all the time, I can honestly say that when mom (or dad) is matter-of-fact and upbeat, the child responds so much better. You'll have to try to hide the stress you're feeling (which is, of course, so normal!) and keep a smile on your face. Remind him that you'll be back after lunch (or after the last thing he does during the day).
So sorry you're having to go through this! It is truly heartbreaking.

I really think it hurts us more than them sometimes. Is your teacher willing to let him take a animal or something from home into the class? Would she allow you to put a picture of you or family members in his desk or in his lunchbox. Then he can see you when he needs too. My son has Asberger's Disease, a high functioning form of Autism. He had a binky til he was almost 6. I would put in his backpack when he went on the bus in the morning. Just knowing it was there made it easier for him to go off. He never used in school or all day. He just needed that security at night. You could make a chart for the fridge that has your routine, in pictures and words. To help him understand about the schudeles we live by. Get up, get dressed, eat, brush your teeth, and so on. The teachers can make you one for the school's day too.

Developmentally, he is at the right age to be experiencing seperation anxiety. You can help him along by giving him a key ring with pictures of your family members to keep with him. If you could let him now what time of day you would be picking him up at (time after a certain activity ie/ nap time) he will be more settled till them. Also, have one staff member be a special contact for him (the one he likes the most) as a reassuring person.

Give it about a week and he should be able to adjust. Also, before any other changes occur, let him know that there are changes comming that will effect his routine which really makes life for little one much more predictable and in return safe.

Good luck,

I had the same problem with my son while he was in full day pre-k, but it does get better. I also worked at the same facility, but not near him. I learned through this process that you have to be consistent and just make for a short and sweet drop-off. It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the child, but don't deviate from the plan and soon it'll be like nothing ever happened. I found that saying a quick goodbye and a kiss before we left the house helped so that he didn't get too worked up and scared. The key is to not give in or change plans. You will see progress. It hurts you alot more than it does your child. Believe me. Good luck.


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