Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Transitions: Dropping off with Ease, Love, and Calm

Our Tumbleweed houses are often buzzing with activity in the morning.  There are tables set with provocations the teachers hope will spark creation and inquiry, free play happening, stories being read or told.  We greet our friends with stories of our evenings at home yesterday, or what we had for breakfast this morning.  Parents chat with children, teachers, and one another.  It's a lovely part of our day.

Of course, along with the loveliness, comes the time when parents and children separate for the day.  Sometimes this is as simple as a hug goodbye and a wave from the window, and sometimes dropping off can come with big, tough feelings, even for seasoned preschoolers who have been doing this for a long time.  Some of the factors that go into having a smooth drop off can't be controlled: a child's health that morning, the night of sleep they had, the weather, or just everyone's mood!  So what can we do to increase our chances of a calm, secure, and relaxed transition from time with parents into the school day?

Ritual and Routine
One of the most important ways to help a child enter the school day feeling good is to build a routine so they know exactly what to expect every day.  What that routine looks like depends on how much time a parent has in the morning, their child's temperament, and what works for their family. A routine might be as simple as: wash hands, give a hug, say goodbye.  It could be more involved: wash hands, pick out a book, read together, settle in at a table to work, get three kisses, and say goodbye.  It could involve a special goodbye phrase you say every day, a specific spot to get a hug, or a hand off to a teacher.  The important thing is to repeat the routine at every drop off.  This helps your child have the security of knowing just what it will look like when you leave.  They don't have to be worried that they'll look up and you'll be gone because they know you leave after you high five (or give a hug, or wave at the window, etc.).

This routine-building will also help on those rushed mornings when you don't have time to do the whole thing.  If your child knows the usual routine, you can tell them "I won't have time to read a story today, but we can still do our secret handshake and two big hugs."  Your child may not be happy about the change in routine, but the fact that you've normalized what you do every day will help them to understand the change.

The other element of creating a routine that will help your child experience that valuable consistency and predictability is making a plan and sticking to it, even when things feel tricky or highly emotional, or so fun that you don't want to leave!  A reliable goodbye routine will help your child build the knowledge that the transition into their day is safe and predictable.

Calm Parent, Confident Child
A preschool classroom is full of sensory input in the morning.  It can be a bit overwhelming, for parents and children alike.  One way that parents can help keep the environment (relatively) calm, is to have a steady, even demeanor as their children acclimate to the day.

This can be really hard!  If your child is feeling super sad about being dropped off, we know that this can feel heavy and sad to their adults as well.  Retaining a stance of confidence and calm (until you leave the classroom) will let your child know that you trust them to be okay on the other side of the transition .

If a child is feeling really excited and wants you to throw them in the air a few times before you leave, it can feel so good to join them in their happy, silly energy.  Children are helped the most, though, by feeling a calm, steady energy from their adults, even or especially when emotions are feeling high.   This also helps your child feel confident that they know the agreements we have at school - consistency and clarity about our agreements helps everyone feel safe since we know it never works, for example, to run in the hall, even when parents are still here.

Ask for Help!
While your child's teachers have a lot going on in the morning, we always also make sure that we are available if help is needed during the transition.  Maybe there's information about your child's morning that we need to hear, maybe your child is clinging to you and you need to hand them to another adult to feel good about leaving, maybe your child has questions about the day that a teacher can help answer so they know what to expect.  We are all so happy and eager to help in these moments.  Not wanting to interfere in your daily routine, we will most likely take a step back unless a parent asks us to step forward, so please don't hesitate to ask.  Our job is to be on the same team with you and your child, helping everyone to navigate the transition into the day.  In order to feel the most available, it's so helpful if families arrive during our free play and table work time before 9:00, but we know that isn't always possible, so please do let us know you need a hand - even if we look busy.

We are so grateful for the families that make up our Tumbleweed community.  We value the opportunity to connect with parents and other family members in the morning, and we admire and are touched by the drop off rituals we witness daily, from a special hand washing song, to a specific window to wave goodbye, to a sweet phrase that's repeated again and again.  We thank the adults and children of Tumbleweed for their efforts to make drop offs wonderful.