Friday, February 11, 2011

Crying when leaving preschool, Help!

Questioner: Monique


Subject: re: crying when leaving preschool

Question: My daughter just turned two-years-old and started a two- year-old program at the same school where she attended the one year old program last year. Last year, she cried a lot and so the school put us on a restricted schedule thinking that would help with her crying. It was toward the end of the school year last year that she was finally able to attend the full time (9 am -12 pm). Many of my friends told me that my daughter was outsmarting the teachers b/c when she cried, they called me to come and get her.


This year, my daughter is crying but not until the end of the day. She was crying at dismissal time (11:45 am). She is now crying before dismissal time (11:20 am). At 11:20 am, the children go out the same door that they do when they leave for the day but they aren't leaving, they are going to the playground. The teacher, very frustrated with my daughter's crying told me today that I had to start picking up my daughter at 11:15 am. I called the director to talk with her about it. I told her that to the children, I think it must be confusing that they have their backpacks heading out the door to go home, but mommy isn't there to pick them up. They leave their bags at the door and go to the playground. Another child in my daughter's class was crying today at the same time. The director said she would talk with the teacher about letting the kid's leave their backpacks in the their classroom instead of taking them to the door as if they were leaving for the day.

I am worried that I will have to pick up my daughter everyday at 11:15 am. I am worried that I will have to leave this school (b/c it is a really good one and b/c getting into another program at this late date in the city I live in would be impossible). I think my daughter is training them. If I cry, they will call my mommy and she will come and get me. I work part-time and I need to work at least one full morning a week (of the three she attends).

What do you think I should do?

Thank you.

Answer: Dear Monique:

You may not like my answer, however if you wade through all this I think you will like my numerous suggestions. IF your daughter is training these adults then it is because she is trying to get a basic need met. SHE MISSES HER MOM.

I found it appalling that everyone you mention in this posting has no empathy for a 2 year old who is being separated from the only safety, nurturing person she has ever known in her short two years on this planet.

While I understand that parents have to work and that it is emotionally hard to separate from a child what I find more incredible is how our society minimizes the feeling of the most helpless and vulnerable people in our society.

She misses you. She wants her mother. It is not her fault. It is nature. We are suppose to want to be with those who take care of us. Children who don't miss their parents I worry about. I worry about what kind of heartless human beings they are going to become.

Now, having said this I do have some practical suggestions. First of all understand that in a two years olds mind, being away from mother for an hour is like a day. So multiply that by however many hours she is away from you. Time does not fly in a child's mind quite like it does in an adults because we are BUSY, STRESSED, etc...our time flies by, but for both the elderly (retired) and the young ones, time is pretty much at a slow, stand still.

My suggestions. She needs a small picture of you somewhere where she can comfort herself, she needs a small something material that she can smell you on (a sweater, a small blanket a stuff toy) anything you can be with and get your smell onto. (If you have to get a mini stuffed something and sleep with it or carry it around while you are at home so she connects it with your or if she has something at home that soothes her insist the school let her have it. (It is in their best interest not to have her crying all day either.)

Although I understand that a teacher can get overwhelmed with a child's crying it is not the child's job to make the teachers life easier. The teacher is after all the adult. You need to be in your child's corner right now, now and forever. Life is tough enough without someone in your corner!

Even five year olds have a tough time leaving their parents when it is time for school so I fail to understand any one's expectation that a 1, 2 or 3 year old deal with separation at such early ages. (I am not picking on you just venting!)

Try and find parents to talk to who understand what your daughter is going through and who can understand your dilemma as a mom (the ones you are talking to don't sound like they like children).

I think you hit it on the head with the backpacks as children take cues from their environments. Cues mean more to them as they have NO SENSE OF TIME. They cannot look at a clock and think "oh gee, only 2 more hours and my mom will be here to pick me up." I strongly suspect your daughter is grieving her loss of you.

I further suggest going to the book store and looking for books that deal with losses, children going to daycare and children going off to school. She needs to know you understand and she needs to hear she is not alone. These type of books will help her.

I also suggest you get a feeling chart (the kind with faces) and start showing her that feelings have expression. Although she may or may not get it at first it is a good begriming to supporting her in identifying her feelings and finding other ways to express them.

She also sounds like she is smart and sensitive. There are two books I suggest one is the sensitive child by Janet Poland (small paperback) and the other is the Highly sensitive child. (Realize calling a child sensitive is just another way of saying they have not been hardened).

Try also making sure your routines at home are stable. She needs security to know you are coming back each day. Remember her idea of time is not yours. Do you have a nightly bedtime routine and a morning routine? You can read through my prior posts about bedtime routines. Routines are not the same thing as schedules. They are routines, what comes first, next and last. I suggest parents include nightly massages for their little ones to increase their sleep intensity and their relaxation. Realize her day is more stressful than yours can be because she is separating from you all day and her preference is to be with you.

Lastly, you have done a good job or she would not prefer to be with you! Children who leave their parents without a fuss CONCERN me. Parents who are not concerned when their children leave without a fuss concern me MORE.

I am so glad you wrote me and I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful. Hug her lots, love on her lots as she will be through this stage much quicker than your realize and you will miss these days more than you could know right now.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller