By: Alyson Schafer

Who among us doesn’t dread the pre-amble and fall-out that often accompany leaving our children in the care of others. They cling to our pant leg and plead for us not to go as we stress about what to do in-front of on-lookers.

We worry, we feel guilty, and we wonder if it is the right thing to do. It’s hard – but one of our jobs as parents is to move our children from total dependence at birth to total independence when they leave the nest. It is our role to prepare, not protect, our children for the demands of life.

“You’re never ready until you begin”
– Rudolf Dreikurs

Show Faith
The only way for a child to learn to be away from their parent is it do it. There is no way to “ramp up” to it per se. We learn we can manage – by managing! Your attitude about your child’s ability to manage is everything in this process. If you are not convinced your child should be left, your apprehension will fuel their apprehension. Likewise, your positive attitude will be infectious too!

“The proper way of training children is identical with the proper way of treating a fellow human”
– Rudolf Dreikurs

Start with Respect
Every individual, regardless of age should be informed of things that affect him or her. If a child is starting a new activity or program, they should know this in advance.

Not too much: Don’t go on about it every day for weeks – that only causes the child to deduce that this event must be BIG, why else would mom and dad keep going on about it?

Not too little: Don’t conceal it in order to avoid the child’s reaction. If you do, the child may learn not to trust you and may deduce that there is always some trickery that you are concealing. This creates a perception of a world that is unpredictable, making it difficult to feel safe and secure.

Just Right: In a simple, calm, matter of fact way, let them know what will be happening. If they object, let them know that you have faith that they will manage. Enough said!

Avoid Giving Undue Attention
If they continue to protest, don’t get too involved in trying to sway them to wanting to go. Just stick with a calm, cool, matter of fact response. If you go on and on like a salesmen trying to sway them, they will have discovered a topic you love to talk about and that holds your attention. Once discovered, they will use this topic to keep you busy with them, usually at tuck-in time. I don’t doubt that there will be some fears and apprehensions in children – but dwelling on it can magnify rather than calm the anxieties.


TTFT (Take time for training)
Decide what you want the drop-off to look like. If you want to be able to drop your child off at the door and kiss them good-bye, then this is what you need to train the child to do. How? BY DOING IT! If you come into the class for 5 minutes and then wait outside for another 5, then that is what the child will want and demand every time. That is what they are learning the “routine” is and we all know that kids thrive on routine. You are teaching them a routine you want to abolish — why bother starting?

Plan ahead
If you think your child will cling – make arrangements in advance with the adult who will be caring for your child to meet you at the door and help “uncouple” the child from you and take them in. With an ally on the inside who is willing to help make the drop-off snappy, and if you both keep your smiles on and proceed with a calm serene air – you will have accomplished both elements to a “HAPPY SNAPPY GOOD-BYE.”

Yes – there will be tears, but the sooner the good-byes are over, the sooner the child calms down and gets engaged in what they are supposed to be doing. To prolong the good-bye actually prolongs the tears and fears. Parents unknowingly are making matters worse instead of better by prolonging the inevitable.

Don’t Reward Expected Behaviour.
And – finally, don’t promise some big treat at pick up time. Offering a treat or a reward just confirms to the child that the place must be horrible because mom feels you need to be compensated for going there!

Long Term

  • It is a gift to let your child learn that they can manage without mom and dad
  • It is a gift to have your child have other adult / child bonds and friendships
  • It is a gift to yourself to have some child-free time to replenish yourself so you can be re-charged as a parent
  • It is a gift to increase your child’s social world
  • It is a gift to practice these skills early


About the author
Alyson Schäfer is a psychotherapist, parent coach and popular public speaker. She teaches parent education classes and works with parents one-on-one in her parent coaching practice.

Alyson is called on regularly by the media as a parenting expert. She has been featured in articles in Today’s Parent, Chatelaine, and Reader’s Digest. She has also been interviewed by the CBC and has appeared on TV shows like Planet Parent,Agenda, Health on the Line, W-Live with Erin Davis, and the CHCH Morning Show.

October 11, 2002, in In Public & Socializing
Article re-published with permission,