This is one of the most heartbreaking feelings as a parent or caregiver.
Taking your little one to school for the day and leaving them in tears as they reach for you and beg you not to leave.
It’s the worst.
I unfortunately have had this happen to me so many times, and it’s my guess that most parents have dealt with this at some point.
What most will tell you is that eventually, they will get over it, and it’s true. At some point they will.
But what do you do in the meantime? What do you do in that very moment when they’re grasping your hand with all of their strength and tears are falling down their face.
Since I’ve been there so many times, I want to share with you what worked for us.
First, is how to gently calm them down in that moment when they’re falling apart.
Second, is getting to the root of the emotion. My good friend Dayna is so good at this, you guys. She’s got a free workshop right now where she explains the heart of school refusal and morning drop-off tears. It is the best $0 you’ll ever spend. Go sign up.
See, at first, I was so frustrated. Being tough and hard with him was my first instinct.
“You are not walking out of this classroom whether you like it or not. STOP CRYING.”
Clearly in hindsight I can see why frustration and anger don’t do anything to calm him down. But in the moment, it was my first reaction.
What I very quickly realized was that I was just making him more upset. Not only was he feeling anxious or worried or scared but now his mom was mad at him, too!
So, I switched it up. And a few minutes later he was calm and I was out the door.
Since I have dealt with so much anxiety in my own life and with him, I focused on doing what I do to calm him down in any other mini-meltdown.
The first thing I do is squat down to look at him in his eyes and get him to take several slow, deep breaths. Looking me in the eyes and breathing slows his heart rate back down and get him to focus.
His shoulders drop down, and he begins to relax.
Do the breathing with them so they can have an example of how to do it. Do this for as long as it takes for them to calm down. There is no rushing. (Don’t worry, this won’t take longer than a minute or two, honestly.)
Then, once they have stopped crying, get them a drink of cold water. This trick has always worked so well for my kids — it’s in my secret arsenal of calm down tricks.
At this point if they have completely stopped crying, slowly introduce them to their desk, or carpet, or wherever they need to go to start their day.
For instance, I said to my son in a soft and slow voice, “Ok, now we are going to go hang up your backpack.” And I walked with him to do so. Then I explained that next I’d walk him to the carpet. I sat him down, hugged him and was able to leave.
(PS. here is another one of my favorite tips for calming a child down quick.)
I am not saying that he was then excited to be there and jumped right in willingly. What I am saying, is he was in a calm state of mind and was OK with staying. I didn’t have to leave with him screaming for me. My heart just can’t handle that.
If you are struggling with a child that cries when you take them to school in the morning, I really hope this can help. If you have other suggestions as well, feel free to leave them in the comments for other parents going through the same thing.
If you’re parenting a child with anxiety I really encourage you take a look at Crush Anxiety. It’s an online course by a child therapist that specializes in anxiety.
I partnered with the creator of the course to give you guys a special discount this month. It cuts the price all the way down to $97. You can only get this price through my link. For the cost of one therapy session you can get everything you need to help your anxious child. It is so, so good.
Liz is a just a mom trying to keep it real about how little she sleeps, how often she gets puked on and how much she loves them. You can find her here every day writing about real-mom moments.