Don’t Nama-Stay at Home
by Casey Hardigan
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
One of the hardest things for parents as they watch their child grow and move from a Pre-Primary classroom to Primary, is to allow and encourage them to enter the classroom alone. Parents and teachers have come up with a few ways of describing this scene: the “drop and go”, the “drop and fly,” or simply “drop at the door.” No matter what you call it, whether a child is writhing and screaming the first few times as their parent hands them off to you, or they walk in confidently and careless without looking back, it is gut-wrenching for Mom or Dad left behind. Here are a few tricks you can suggest to parents to support them and make this transition less traumatic.
Mentally prepare yourself. A brief drop-off will be difficult to get used to, but ultimately it’s in the child's best interest. Suzy may cry initially as she is prodded in the door and a teacher gently whisks her into the classroom, but by the time you are to the window 4 feet down the hall, anxiously looking in trying to gauge how your child is faring, Suzy is already dry-eyed asking, “what's for breakfast today?”
Have a consistent routine in the morning. It’s hard work trying make sense of the world! For a young child, many things don’t yet make sense as they are just developing the mental capacity to decode emotions and are working hard to categorize stimuli around them. They often don’t have the words to express their confusion or explain how they are feeling, and this alone can make small tasks overwhelming. A predictable schedule: wake up, put on clothes they chose the night before, eat breakfast, brush teeth, drive to school at the same time each day, can help ease your child’s anxiety about the day ahead. They will find calm in knowing what to expect each morning and will feel better able to take on the day.
On the way mention things they love at school. This ties into the above strategy about easing your child’s trepidation by naming things they can rely on. However, it also plays into their interests. Is there a lesson you know they practice tirelessly at school? Entice them by asking if they will work with the Pink Tower and Broad Stair. Perhaps Suzy’s friend Molly will be there to work with? Mention the teachers your child has built a relationship with. Ask questions about what they are looking forward to playing with on the playground. Montessori environments are purposely designed and teachers taught how to engage the child’s individual interests to draw them in and instil excitement about learning.
Stay calm, cool, and collected. If you are in a rush, anxious, and nervous about dropping off, Suzy will likely notice this, and mirror your behavior. If you act excited and nonchalant about the day, Suzy will draw from and mimic your courage and strength and eventually walk in confidently as well.
Communicate with the teacher. If you are anticipating an especially difficult drop-off, if there is a change in routine at home (Mom or Dad out of town), or you know your child has significant separation anxiety, talk to their teacher. Always wave them down if a teacher is not already waiting at the door. The teacher may know new lessons in the classroom Suzy will be excited to try. Teachers are an invaluable resource. We have seen many cases of difficult drop-offs and have an arsenal of tools to coax your little one in the door, until one day, before you know it, they are running down the hall excited to come to school i
Have faith. Leaving your child abruptly at the door with adults you are not yet familiar with, goes against every instinct in your body as a Mom or a Dad. Just know she will spend the rest of her day eagerly exploring materials, playing and working with her friends, busy with her work of becoming. Know that in order for a 3 year old to take ownership of herself and build confidence and self-sufficiency, Mom or Dad have to trust in the roots they have given them, let go just a little bit, and allow them to fly. Sending your child into the classroom independently sends the message that this is their space to take ownership and responsibility for, and puts them in the driver's seat on the path of becoming the strong, confident person they are capable of being.