By Karen Dennis

Leaving your child anywhere can be difficult for many parents, whether it is at school, nursery or with a child minder.

I’m sure it is actually harder for the parent, than the child!

My older children didn’t really prove much of a problem when it came to leaving them. I always made sure we attended the visits that many schools hold as a means to introducing children gradually.

My youngest son, however, was a bit of a challenge. I remember him crying at preschool, because he didn’t want me to leave him. I found it heart breaking, but knew it was for the best in the long run. The preschool was close to the town centre, so after leaving him I looked around a few shops, to take my mind off the situation. Then before going home, I peeped in the window, making sure he couldn’t see me, just to reassure myself that he was O.K.

By the time I got home and had a quick cuppa it was almost time to fetch him again. I must stress that when I had looked through the window, he was playing happily, without a care in the world and seemed perfectly happy when I collected him.

Separation anxiety when starting school or nursery

When Adam started school he was fine for the first few weeks, but then the novelty wore off and we had the crying again and he would cling onto me. Luckily he had an amazing teacher who would say things like “Would you come and help me water the plants, Adam?” This worked a treat I would give him a kiss, say see you later and go while he was occupied with his teacher.

My top tip – try not to sneak off while your child isn’t watching. Always tell them you are going and give a kiss or cuddle. Sneaking away will just make them cling on tighter.  Some other key steps to take are:

  • Speak to their teacher about what is happening
  • Encourage them to meet friends in the playground so they are greeted by familiar happy faces
  • Invite new friends round for tea so they can develop stronger, more appealing, relationships with people at school
  • You could also try going back to basics and use a star chart as a reward when they go into school without a fuss
  • Offer something positive to look forward to at the weekend – present it as a goal to aim for
  • If your child asks what you are going to do while they are at school, try to make it sound boring, so they don’t feel they are missing out on something good

Problems at drop-off

During my time as a child minder, I discovered many children would cry when a parent (usually mum) left, the when they heard my garden gate close, they would stop… until the parent returned and they’d start crying again because they didn’t want to go home. I’m sure this was to make the parent feel guilty!

I recall one child in my care, who normally arrived with his mum without too much fuss, but one day his father did the drop-off, he ran after his dad screaming. I tried to comfort him by picking him up and giving him a cuddle. Of course, he was having none of it. He smacked, hit and even bit me.

Realising that I couldn’t calm him down because it wasn’t me he wanted, I made sure he was safe and then walked away. After a few moments he came after me, did a big sniff and told me, “I’ve stopped being silly now, Karen.” Then I picked him up, wiped his tears away, read him a story and texted his dad to let him know that his son was now settled.

Good luck, try to stay calm, and know that you are doing an excellent job.

As always questions/ comments are welcome. I will answer questions as soon as possible.

Karen x


About the Author: Karen Dennis is a mum, step mum, grandparent and blogger at The Next Best Thing to Mummy. She also worked as a childminder for 14 years, until ill health forced her to give up. She has an NVQ Level 3 in early years care and education, as well as many more qualifications. She has also been employed as a pre-school development worker and by the children’s centre as a support childminder.