The Dreaded Drop-Off: Separation Anxiety is the Worst


A few months ago, I was reading a Facebook post in the Carmel moms group. The mom wrote the post asking for advice because her child was having extreme separation anxiety during daycare drop-off. My first thought when reading it was, “Phew, thank God my son doesn’t do that.” Cut to me, three months later, with my screaming son at daycare drop-off. The teacher is peeling him off of me as he reaches for me with sadness in his eyes. I will never be that cocky mom again. Ever.

Daycare Drop Off - Separation Anxiety

I should feel flattered that my son loves me this much…

Looking back to last year, the drop-off was so easy. We would pull up to the carpool line and my son would shout “yay!” at the top of his lungs. He would jump out of his car seat, ready to go. All the teachers would say they loved his smile and eagerness to get inside to play with his friends. But now, we pull up and my son immediately starts crying. He yells “no!” when I tell him how much fun he’s going to have that day. The teachers say how unlike him it is to cry like this, and then they give me a sympathetic look and say, “don’t worry, he’ll be happy in five minutes.” As I drive to work, I feel crushing guilt. I don’t want to admit the number of mornings I have cried and wanted to turn right back around and pick him up. And, you know, quit my job, change our lifestyle by being a stay at home mom; all because he cried in the morning. 

Why the waterworks?

When I pick my son up after work, I usually peek in so he can’t see me, to see how he is doing. He’s always having a great time, playing and laughing. I sometimes email his teachers for a midday update and they always say that he’s having a great day, doing his daily craft project or enjoying his lunch. So why the sob-filled hugs when I drop him off? What could I do differently that would help speed this terrible phase along? 

Help an anxious mother out.

I’m seeking advice from all veteran moms who have taken their child to daycare – how do you handle it? Do you walk in with your child and spend a little time with them, and then try to sneak away? Or do you do the carpool drop-off route, and just expect your child to throw a tantrum while the teacher kindly whisks them away? I have tried both but can’t figure out which method is best. When does separation anxiety end? I think the solution might just be for me to grow some thicker skin and let this ride out. Or maybe my husband can just deal with drop-off.


  1. Try a routine at drop off. My second son was an absolute nightmare – this after son number one was a DREAM for drop offs and still is. Son number two started out as good, but just prior to two this behavior started. After much trial and error, he and I figured out a routine that worked for him. We would walk in, take off the coat and hang it up with his back pack. After signing in he’d walk me to the door, “push” me through the door and into the hallway, say bye and close the door. Since he feels like he’s controlling the situation and making the choice he’s done a 180. Good luck!

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