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Coping with Tears at Drop-off

by | May 30, 2022

Going back to work following extended family leave is a time of transition for everyone. You’re getting used to a new routine, not being with your baby all day, and thinking about how you’re going to juggle everything. Your baby is also adjusting and adapting to new people and new places.
Platform55 Co-founder Tracy found it difficult to get her son to settle into creche. Here’s her story |

“My eldest son started creche 3 days a week when he was 11 months old. He was a sociable little boy, so I imagined that he’d love being at creche. The reality was different. Every morning he’d start crying as I took him out of the car. His little arms and legs would cling tightly to me, not wanting to let go. The staff were always brilliant, they’d prise him off me with promises that he could go and feed the goldfish. But I’d walk out of that door choking back tears before sitting in the car and crying my heart out. What was I doing? Why was I putting myself, and him, through this? Surely nothing was worth this? Every day I had to pull myself together so that I could start work and put a brave face on”

We hope that your experience goes better. In fact, many children adapt straight away to being in childcare. However, just like adults, children all respond differently to new situations. Some may settle right in; others may find it harder to adjust. As they develop, they may go through different phases – when they’re teething, or returning from a family holiday, there can be a period of re-adjustment.

If you’re coping with tears at drop off (their tears, or yours), here’s some things that might help |

1. Find the right solution for you | Do your research and make sure you’re 100% happy with the people who are going to be caring for your baby.   Creche is only one option – there are lots of alternatives that may suit your circumstances and your family better. 

2. Keep drop-offs quick |  All care-givers will agree that it only prolongs the agony for everyone if you hang around for one more cuddle.  

3. Drop off versus pick up? | Babies and toddlers are smart –often they will react differently depending on who is dropping them off.  They tune in to the emotions that the parent is showing. Therefore, one parent may have to cope with tears and clingy behaviour, whilst the other gets a cheery wave bye-bye.    If this is true for you and your partner – try to work your schedule so that you can accommodate a routine that works for you.  One parent may be better doing drop off whilst the other does pick up. 

4. Check in |   Whilst most care-givers will assure you that your little one will be fine as soon as you leave, it can be helpful to make a call to put your mind at ease.  Ring the crèche or child-minder when you get into work to check that everything is okay.  You’re more likely to hear shrieks of laughter than wailing.  

5. Routine | We know the benefits of having a routine for bed-time – the same can be true for the morning drop-off.  Talk about which friend they are going to play with, or ask them which teddy they would like to take today.  Even if they aren’t old enough to talk back, they will understand the same thing is happening every day and with predictability comes security.  

6. Watch your language |  When we’re feeling anxious it comes across in our body language and our voice.  Even though your heart may feel like its breaking or you’ve a knot in your stomach at the thought of trying to extract those little arms and legs that are clinging to you – try to keep your voice upbeat.  Play some fun songs in the car on the way there and sing along to them to help lighten the mood.  Kids can sense anxiety a mile off. 

7. Focus on the positives | Try not to let that 5 mins of tears in the morning cloud your view of the rest of the day. Most children love being at crèche or with a child-minder, and it does wonders for their social development.   You’ve done your homework and made your choice, so be confident that they are in the best and safest of hands.   Getting to play, sing, interact with other little ones, paint, and do lots of fun activities may be even better than being at home.     

8. Give it time | Some children settle really quickly, others take a bit of time so avoid comparing your situation to others.     It’s a big adjustment to make – think of how long it took you to settle into a new job. 

9. Stop beating yourself up| You’re using childcare either because you have to work, or you want to.  Trust that you’ve made the right decision and that your child will be loved and cared for. Using childcare doesn’t make you a bad parent.  Try instead to focus on the positives and when you do get to spend time with them make the most of it.  Think quality not quantity of time that you have with your children. 

10. If after some time things still aren’t settling – sit down and look at alternatives |    Perhaps the option you’ve chosen just doesn’t suit your little one, or you.    Think of all the possible solutions from crèche, child-minder, au-pair, relatives, nanny or nanny-share.  Find the best fit for you and your family.

So how did it work out for Tracy?  

“My partner and I re-worked our schedule so that he did drop off and I did pick-up.  It made such a difference, and we all got the day off to a much better start.  When my second little boy arrived, I admit that I was nervous about going through all that again, so we re-looked at our options.  We decided that using a childminder who came to our house was a better solution for us, and it was the same cost as paying two sets of creche fees.  Most children thrive in childcare, whether that’s a creche or with a childminder, they do so many activities that I wouldn’t have done with them at home.  Plus, as someone once said to me ‘don’t count the number of hours they’re with a minder, versus the hours they spend with you during the week – you’re their parent, and no-one can ever take your place’ ”.

Remember to sign up for the monthly coaching sessions to connect with other parents and get some friendly advice. 

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