How to Deal With Tears at School Drop Off

How to Deal With Tears at School Drop Off

Whether you're just starting school, pre-school or nursery for the first time or you're 3 years in deep, tears at school drop off is never pleasant. It's difficult all round - the children are obviously upset and struggling with some big emotions, the parents are upset and struggling with the guilt of it all and we'd be lying if we said it was easy for the teachers!

If, like us, you're in the midst of dealing with tears at school drop off, here are some tips to help...


Routine is good for everybody. Even if we take it right back to basics: as human beings, as our most innate selves, our body clock thrives off the routine of the earth's rotation. We naturally wake as the sun rises, tiring at dusk.

Getting into a good routine, repeated daily, will help your child get used to school and particularly school drop off. Aim for the mornings to be as structured a routine as possible: wake up at the same time, have breakfast around a similar time, get ready and leave at the same time. At first, your child might resist the routine, but eventually, they'll get used to it, and essentially learn that going to school is just what you do everyday - just like waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night.

Don't be Late

A good routine should mean you're not rushing around panicking - if you're flapping about at the front door shouting "come on, we're late", then your panic is only going to rub off on your child. They're like little emotional sponges and pick up on more than we think, so that stress and rush to get out the door is going to make them feel stressed and rushed, too, which certainly won't help the transition from home to classroom.

Don't be Early

Okay so I know I've just stressed the importance of not being late, but you also don't want to be too early! Getting to school too early and hanging around the gate or playground allows time for any negative feelings to creep up and build into something a lot larger than they started off as. Your child, if struggling with tears at school drop off, has more time to get upset and dwell on the fact they're leaving you. It almost puts them in a state of limbo in the midst of the transition, instead of making the transition swift and smooth. Aim to get to school just on time, so as soon as you arrive your child can walk straight into the classroom and play.

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Make Drop-Off Quick!

When you do the physical handover and drop-off itself - try to make it quick. Most school teachers will be well seasoned in dealing with tears at drop-off and have a few tricks up their sleeves. As time goes on, they'll learn more about your child - my son's teacher always knows when it's the perfect time to pull out the 'let's go - we've got dinosaurs to play with today!' card.

Even if they're crying or physically clinging to you, try to hand them off to the teacher quickly. 9 times out of 10, the tears will slow down and stop entirely after minutes of you leaving. I won't lie - the first time the teacher physically peels your child off you, it will feel horrific and you will probably be riddled with "mum guilt", but I promise it will be okay.

Instead of drawing out drop-off, try to make it quick - kiss, cuddle and squeeze and off they go. Don't be scared to physically pass them to their teacher who can take their hand and lead them inside (or carry them in if truly necessary!).


When your child is dealing with tears at school drop off it can be difficult to remain happy and positive. As a parent, it's so upsetting to see our little ones crying and upset, especially when they're crying because they don't want to leave you or don't want to go somewhere you're making them go. Try not to let any negativity creep in - it's important that you are a positive role model for your child and radiate happy, positive energy.

Talk positively about school, about the things they'll do, their new friends and themselves. Remind them about how fun it is to sing songs and play at school. Learning is fun! Praise their bravery and courage. You could even come up with some positive affirmations to say together such as "I am brave" and 'I can do hard things.'

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It's important to remember that your child's tears at drop-off are, in themselves, a means of communication. Try your best not to be annoyed at the tears or - even worse - consider them manipulative or fake. Children do not "fake" tears - they are always genuinely upset about something and often need a guiding hand from you to help them learn to regulate their emotions. For children, everything is the end of the world, worst-case scenario - until they learn that emotions are a scale. After all, they need to learn that you will always be there to pick them up at the end of the day!

Try to communicate with them. What exactly is it that they are sad about? Are they scared of being without mum, dad or their carer? Is it a particular room, teacher or another child they do not like?

If you are able to slowly try to talk and communicate with them, even if that communication takes a few weeks to truly develop, you might be able to get an understanding of what they are struggling with. For our son, his main struggle is being away from us, in someone else's care - this is alien to him. For other children, they could be struggling with toileting at school, a particular child, or perhaps they are not understood or able to speak freely at school. Whatever the issue - the only way you'll find out is if you take the time to talk to your child, help them feel listened to and understood.

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Friendly Faces

School is overwhelming with lots of new faces - children, teachers and parents alike. Try to create an environment of friendly faces for your children - from getting to know their teacher at drop off and pick up to making some more long-term friendships with other children and families. Every friendly face will make drop off that little bit easier. My son loves talking about his friends at school, and drop-off is made a little easier by being able to point out ?"Oh look! Tommy is over there - shall we go and say hello?".

Stick at it!

As difficult as it seems, it will - or at the very least should - get easier. It will feel too easy to sack it in and give up in those first few weeks but keep persevering and you will reap the rewards eventually and your child will become more independent.

Tears at school drop-off and starting school, in general, is difficult - possibly one of the most difficult parts of being a parent - but you've got this!

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