See You Later Alligator - Saying Goodbye at DayCare

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This blog post was originally published in April 2015.  With a new school year underway, many of you may find it helpful to see again!


You and your child have spent countless hours together bonding and forming daily routines. It has been wonderful witnessing your child's growth and development. Now it is time to return to work, or you need to leave your child with a caregiver, or they are beginning a new preschool program. It is the first day and you are nervous and worried about how this will all turn out.

The arrival went smoothly and you are pleased so far. Your child is smiling and seems to be at ease. You say a cheerful good bye, kiss their cheek, and give them a hug and say "I will be back after your nap, have fun!" As you head for the door you say to yourself …. "Well that went well"…."I cannot believe I was so worried". Your hand stretches out to open the door and you hear your child crying and calling to you. As bad as you may feel, it is important to remember that this is normal. Your child does not want you to leave because they do not want to be separated from you. It really is a sign of love!

Here are a few tips on how to make your goodbyes easier on both you and your child:

  • Begin to prepare your child for the initial separation several days in advance. You may want to locate a book that helps children say goodbye. Stories are a great way to help children

Learn how to handle various topics. Check with your local library for some suggestions.

  • Go over the scenario with your child before the first day. Talk about where you are taking them and give them a timeline they can relate to. Saying you will return after an activity they are used to repeating daily and is part of their routine, such as naptime
  • Tell them you are leaving and avoid the temptation to sneak out while they are distracted. This may make the good bye easier for you but it does not help your child develop the security they need.
  • Make your good-byes quick and try to establish a routine for it. Saying things like "See you later, alligator….after a while, crocodile" may seem insignificant but it makes them feel more secure.
  • Coming back should be a good experience as well. Take the time to let your child share about their day or show you something they experienced or played with while you were gone.
  • Be sure to ask the caregiver how everything went so you can talk about any issues with your child later at home.
  • It may be that your child may ignore you when you arrive to pick them up. They may simply be busy or purposefully ignoring you because they are still upset you left them there.

The one thing to keep in mind during this and other parenting issues is that there is always someone who can help you. Seek advice of other parents for support and know that with these challenges come great rewards!

For more information and helpful parenting tips check out the resources below:

Parenting 24/7

Just in Time Parenting

University of Illinois Extension Website