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Transition times are often difficult for parents, children and the daycare teachers that serve their families. However, there are several things that can be done to ease the difficulties of these transitions.

For many parents, one of the most tedious and emotionally draining times of the day are when they drop off and pick up their children from daycare. They have worries that they are abandoning their children in the morning; when they arrive to pick up their kids and head home for some quality time together their children don’t want to leave.


In a nation of sleep-deprived parents, many families begin the day in a flurry of lunch preparation and wheedling to get sleepy children dressed and in the car. This causes the moment of goodbye to be possibly the first moment of undivided attention the child has received from their parent that day. They want to extend this time of closeness as long as possible, as well as desiring assurance that they are still loved and cared for.

Also, another difficulty may be found in the issue of timing. Mornings are typically a well-structured time in daycares, featuring Circle Time, centers, stories, recess, art, and a variety of other activities. Children may find it difficult to transition into the school environment when all of the other children are already engaged in an activity and they feel like they are intruding if they try to enter into the mix.

There are several ways to ease the tension of this transitional time. One of the most successful of these is changing the routines that are creating the hectic feelings in children in the morning. Purchase prepackaged lunch items or prepare several days worth of food at a time, lay out clothes for the next day the night before, enforce a “family bed time,” and make sure to leave a few minutes each morning that are centered around your special little people, rather than on your demanding work schedule.

Another strategy that may help involves finding the best time to enter daycare in the morning. A couple of the parents at my school choose to bring their children in at an earlier time simply because they do not want to disturb Circle Time, which happens daily at 9 am.

One struggle for daycare teachers to know is if you as a parent would prefer for us to intervene when your child is upset at your leaving, or give you privacy for another hug or a quiet conversation. You may find it useful to speak with your child’s morning teachers about solutions to make this time easier.


The afternoon is another difficult transition time in the daycare schedule. This differs from the morning routine in that parents often come at a wider variety of times, or in spurts. In contrast, in the mornings typically all parents drop off their children before 9 am, but in the afternoon and early evening parents get off of work at a wide scope of times. A large group of children leave after the 4:30, 5:00 and 5:30 parents have time to drive to the center and pick up their children, and this creates an entirely different set of transition issues.

Some of the children at our center see the earlier kids getting picked up and then feel anxiety because they want to leave as well, and they feel like they are being left behind. My typical answer when these children ask me, “When is my mommy going to pick me up?” is to ask them, “When does mom usually come? Is it before snack? After we go out on the playground?”

Because they do not know how to use a clock, this gives them a better comprehension of the relative time of how long until they are picked up for the day, as well as reassuring them that there is a routine and that there is nothing out of the ordinary of when they are being picked up. Some parents will call our center if there is a change in their schedule and they will arrive to pick up their kids even a half an hour later than usual. This can be a good strategy if your child suffers from anxiety at changes in schedule or separation anxiety, as long as the childcare provider does not emphasize that there parent is on the phone, but the child may not talk to him or her.

One further issue is the struggle that sometimes is splayed out when mom and dad finally do come to pick up their child. In contrast to the morning struggle for children to let go of their parents and move into the routine of the daycare day, parents find that their children are reluctant to go home. Parents sometimes react negatively to this because they feel like they are un-loved, or they are simply tired from a long day of work and do not want to wait for their kids to play one last video game, or go across the monkey bars one final time. The thing that needs to be remembered is that the children have been waiting the whole day for their mom, and now called to suddenly change what they are doing and leave. One way to ease this time and its transitional frustrations is by preparing before coming into the center. If you are on your cell phone—finish your conversation in the car. If you had a bad day at work and are feeling angry—take a short walk, go to a park for 5 or 10 minutes, sit in a coffee house, yell in your car. Whatever you do, your attention should be solely focused on your children when you arrive to pick them up.

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