children's counselor sets up play space

Drop Off Drama

children's counselor sets up play space

It’s that time of year again – the dreaded carpool drop-off! As a Guidance Counselor, I have witnessed many students experience the anxiety of separating from a parent/guardian in the carpool line. This includes, but is not limited to, crying, screaming, kicking, latching, biting, scratching, and making you rethink EVERY decision you have made thus far while feeling guilty, embarrassed, overwhelmed, and late for work. Not exactly how you would like to start your day, right?

However, there’s good news! I have also witnessed many students overcome this fear with a few tips and tricks I would love to pass along.

Let me preface by saying these behaviors are NORMAL! These are teachable moments where children are learning that their feelings are valid, and they can use their words to communicate and express them. I remember the week before I started at LSU, I felt a lot of anxiety about finding my classes. It was the same “first day of school jitters” that many of us can empathize with. To cope with these feelings, I walked LSU’s campus with my friends to familiarize myself with where to park, what buildings my classes were in, and how much time I had to get to and from each class. 

Imagine if you felt these same “jitters” every day, but you didn’t know what the feeling was? Or how to communicate what you were feeling? Or how to cope? I would predict this would lead many people to experience symptoms of “drop-off drama.”

So how can I achieve a drama-free drop-off?

Separating from your parent/guardian can be painful and scary – especially if you are going to an unfamiliar place. That is why familiarizing your child with the school by walking the campus, practicing getting in and out of the carpool line, and bringing your child to school early can help ease their anxiety and make them feel comfortable. 

Other tips and tricks include:

  • Slowly adjust wakeup times and routines
  • Get the school counselor involved
  • Read books (I recommend The Invisible String or The Kissing Hand)
  • After picking your child up from school, discuss their emotions (ex. “You seemed sad when I dropped you off at school this morning.”)
  • After picking your child up from school, discuss ways they can self-soothe
  • Focus on the positive emotions they had during the day 
  • Avoid talking about school in a negative way (ex. “Yay there’s no school tomorrow!”)
  • Give your child a special item they can keep with them throughout the day (ex. A family picture, stuffed animal, something of yours)
  • Acknowledge your child’s emotions, but reassure them that they are going to be fine
  • Keep drop off short because if you linger it will make them worry to see you uncomfortable
  • Don’t sneak off because it may cause distrust
  • Be conscious of facial expressions and body language 
  • Speak with the teacher about how your child coped or what helped them calm down

Janie H. is one of the clinicians at Refinery who specializes in working with children and parents. Janie also serves as a school counselor at a local elementary and middle school when she is not at RCC.