Tearful Drop Offs
We’re a few weeks into the start of the school year, and the little moments of “I don’t want to go to school,” or tears at drop off can be a bit of a hiccup. Maybe they’ve started already, or maybe they’re still a ways away, but at some point, everyone — children and adults both — has a sense of “I don’t want to go to school.”
What’s behind this? Is something wrong? Is something bad happening?
We always want to fix, don’t we? There’s a problem, find a solution. If a child is tearful at drop off surely something is wrong, we’ll fix the problem and Bob’s your uncle.
It’s so uncomfortable to keep company and not fix.
There’s not always something wrong. Most of the time, really, it’s not that I don’t like school, it’s that I don’t like leaving you, my most favorite person in the whole world. As adults, if we like what we’re going to, it’s easy to leave. If I don’t want to go to work, it’s cause I need a break or a career change. For a child, I could go to school OR — hear me out — I could hang out with my favorite people and we could all get ice cream and play together and everything is perfect.
Especially before this is the routine, in that terrible sweet spot when it’s no longer novel but it’s also not yet familiar, children just experience discomfort. This isn’t new and exciting, but I don’t feel confident and totally at home yet. Yeah, ice cream with my very most favorite people sounds much better, too.
“Tearful is very different from fearful.”
When adults feel confident, children are 80% of the way there. Your feelings are valid. I hear you and I see you. You are safe and you are loved. Off you go.
It’s okay not to love every minute of every day. Having the best day is a very high bar to set. “Have a day!” “Have the day you have!” “Take breaths and have feelings!”
We’re not here to educate a child when they’re on their best behavior, or happy. We’re here to keep company no matter what, social emotional education included, empathy included, sense of security included. We don’t expect perfection, we’re just glad you’re here.
Okay, so what? Just send off my tearful child without a second thought?!
Yes and no.
This is the routine, this is what we do. If you want to great, if you don’t want to great, this is a school day and I love you.
Talk with your child’s teacher or administrator and see if they ever provide a photo or an update about a child’s day. Are they adjusting once they get inside? Would you let me know if a day or this setting didn’t seem like the right fit? Okay great awesome thanks just checking.
Trust your gut. Tearful is very different from fearful. I can be tearful and seeking comfort. I know these are safe people even if they’re not the Very Most Favorites I go home to each night.
“Have a day!”
“Have the day you have!”
“Take breaths and have feelings!”
A day off is a challenge. For adults, a day off can be the pause that refreshes, take a break and come back stronger. For a child, it can be a derailed train, or just what is necessary, and no one can answer that but you. No one wants to Monday-Morning-Quarterback, especially as it comes to their children, but it’s inevitable. There’s going to be a day when someone complains about a sore throat and we send them to school only go end up with a strep diagnosis later, or we keep them home and it’s crystal clear that sore throat resolved or was perhaps exaggerated. That’s just how it works.
We always want to have the right answer, but sometimes the best we can do is keep company, and that’s enough.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder