Saying Goodbye at Child Care

Saying goodbye can be stressful time for little ones, since it is normal and healthy for young children to have a strong attachment to their parents. Young children's attachments and their ability to separate from their parents varies by age.
Children from birth to 12 months old are closely attached to their parents and dependent upon them for almost everything. They recognize that mom and dad are special people and prefer their company over other adults. Fear of strangers develops between seven and nine months. Separation from parents, such as going to child care, is difficult at this age because children are afraid their parents will not return.

Children from 1 to 3 years old are more independent. They enjoy playing and exploring on their own, but may stop what they are doing to be sure mom or dad is close by. At this age, children may feel comfortable with other familiar adults, but will be concerned about their parents leaving them.

Children from 3 to 5 years old can do more things for themselves. They enjoy playing on their own and with friends. Separations from their parents are easier at this age because they understand mom and dad still exist, even if they are not in the same room.

Preparing You Child for School/Child Care
• Visit the school or center ahead of time to meet the teachers or child care provider.
• Tell your toddler or preschooler what will happen at the school/child care center.
• Read stories to your child about going to school/child care.
• If possible, let your child stay at the school/child care center for short periods of time to get used to it.
• Give the teacher information to help her make your child feel at home.

Saying Good-Bye at School/Child Care
Infants and Toddlers (birth to 3 years)
• Establish "getting ready" routines, such as letting your child help you pack his bag or pick out clothing to wear.
• As you place your child's things in the cubby at school/child care, explain what you are doing.
• While holding your infant, let her look around. Walk around with your baby and tell her what is happening.
• Tell your child you are leaving, where you will be and when you will be back. Do not sneak out.
• Give hugs and kisses, and let the teacher take her.
• Once you have said good-bye, leave quickly.
• If allowed, give your child "security objects" from home (such as a blanket or a favorite toy).
• Hang family pictures in your child's cubby.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
• Develop "getting ready" routines, such as having your child choose his own clothes for the day.
• Encourage your child to participate in ongoing activities and play with friends.
• Tell your child you are leaving, where you will be, and when you will be back.
• Let your child participate in the good-bye routine by making up special good-bye sayings, such as "See ya later, alligator."
• When you say good-bye, let your child decide if she wants a hug or kiss.
• Once you have said good-bye, leave quickly.
The information was developed by The Family Conservancy from a variety of professional resources. This is not a standardized measurement tool.

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