It’s that moment we all dread- we go to drop off our little one at preschool/babysitter’s/church nursery/Sunday School and suddenly they become a leech attached to our lower extremities. There are all kinds of methods to “conquer the clingies”, but here are some things I’ve found to be successful.
1. Prepare. Talk with your child about it beforehand and discuss how the drop off will go. The more specific and positive you can be about it, the better.
2. Help them settle in. Get them engaged in a fun activity, like building with blocks, coloring, or playing with toys. This helps distract them from the fact that you’re leaving.
3. Don’t sneak away! Give your child a hug and a kiss, let them know you’re leaving but you’ll be back soon.
4. Have special “goodbye traditions” or rituals that you do with your child when it’s time for you to be apart, like a Secret Kiss, a secret handshake, or a special saying, like, “See you later, alligator!” These positive things make the transition easier. I always ask my 3-year-old to save up her “biggest hug” for me for when she leaves for her nursery class.
5. If the transition is consistently tearful, try this: do all of the above, and if they are still crying after you leave, just go outside for a minute or two, then come back in cheerfully and say, “See? I said I’d be right back. How is that block tower coming?” Then sit with them and play for a minute, but if possible, don’t allow them to sit on your lap or cling to you. Once they are calm, then do #3 & #4 again, and then step outside for another few minutes- make it a little longer this time- and then come back, again cheerfully greeting them and sitting back down to play. This reinforces the idea to the child that when you leave, you will come back, and it helps them to know that the leaving and coming back are happy, easy things. After a few days of this, they are usually ready to be on their own.
Above all, remember that all kids are different, and what works for other children might not work for yours. You know your child better than anyone else, and so how you leave them in the care of others should ultimately be your decision.