Tips on Saying Goodbye to Children in a Childcare Setting (for parents and caregivers)

I've seen  a lot of teary eyed goodbyes when parents leave to go to work, working primarily with two and three year olds for the past five years. I have also seen parents sneak out when their child isn’t looking (causing very dramatic scenes when the child realizes the parent seemingly abandoned them), as well as some very inappropriate behavior by caregivers (like not allowing children to cry when their parents leave). So with all of this in mind,  Ive put together a little list of tips that I have found work pretty well for me and the teachers I work with when a child has to say goodbye to a parent. These tips are to share with parents and hopefully will be helpful to caregivers and teachers as well. 

Tip #1 Extra Time At Drop Off. Parents need to ensure they have extra time for the morning drop offs, especially in the beginning of a child transitioning into a new child care setting. Having that extra time will allow the parent to ease the child into the room and get them settled. It also means the parent will have ample time to discuss issues and routines with the caregivers and form a relationship with them early on. The extra time every morning can help a parent establish those goodbye routines like reading a book before the parent leaves or helping a child wash their hands before finding an activity to get involved in. 

Tip #2 Always say Goodbye. This can be difficult if a parent knows their child will start crying when they say goodbye. They may be reluctant to bring up goodbyes and want to just flee the room when they see their child engaged. But, these beginning years for a child are full of development and they are just beginning to understand the concepts of trust and honesty. When a parent does not say goodbye and slips out, a child may be confused and even more upset after the parent is gone. It is very important to establish this trust between parent and child. Parents should not prolong the goodbye. Be kind and direct and say some thing like, “I have to go to work now. I will pick you up after nap time. I love you.” Give the child a hug and or kiss and let the teacher ease the child into an activity. If the child is crying and reaching for the parent, it will only prolong the crying if the parent stays. Remember that the goodbye is inevitable and the sooner the parent can be on their way, the sooner the caregiver can begin to establish the trusting relationship with the child. Pretty soon the child will trust the caregiver and understand better that goodbyes are not forever and their parent will come back for them. 

Tip #3 (For caregivers)
-Teachers and caregivers can help the parent and child by first discussing how they will handle morning transitions prior to the child entering the program.
- Teachers and caregivers can provide interesting activities daily to encourage children’s curiosity and help redirect them to play after a parent says goodbye.
- Teaches and caregivers should always be mindful of the language spoken around children. If a child is very upset after a parent leaves, caregivers should be calm and comforting, reminding them that their parent loves them and will come back to get them after work. 
- Teachers and caregivers can also read books about working parents or discuss feelings and ways to cope when parents say good bye at group times. See below for a list of good books.
 * An album called Baby Songs: Original has a great song on it called “My Mommy Comes Back”. I teach all of my teachers this song so we can sing it to the children who miss their parents. I even have children singing it to other children.)  :)

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Summer Langille, M.A, Early Childhood Education Specializing 0-8 Years

Summer has been working with children for almost 15 years. The oldest of four she’s always seen herself as a caregiver. She started off caring for children as a nanny for many years. She received her undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education specializing in birth to age eight from Long Beach State. She’s worked with infants all the way up to elementary aged children in center-based care, private school care, home-based care, back-up care and afterschool care. She was a lead teacher for an infant program and more recently a two year old/preschool program. She even had a brief stint as a brownie girl scout troop leader. She’s passionate about quality care for children and thinks the environment plays a large role in how a child learns effectively. She loves art, blocks, music, fairy gardens and picture books and wants all caregivers of children to know how important their job is to the children they care for. Summer is currently home with her baby, navigating this new role as Mama. She blogs about her family at www.summerplayshouse.com.