Published onJanuary 9, 2019

Your smartphone may be sabotaging preschool drop-off

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Whether day care is new to you and your child or it’s a well worn routine, a tearful and anxious drop-off makes for a rough start to everyone’s day — including the Teacher’s!

In a recent ethnographic study of early educators —the Preschool Teachers and child care professionals who may likely be spending more waking hours with your child than you are — we learned something fascinating about how smartphones can make or break a toddler’s morning. If this photo feels all too familiar, ask yourself this:

Do you tend to get on your phone en route to school with your child in the car? Do you walk into the school with your smartphone in your hand?

If you are distracted by notifications on your phone or multitasking at drop-off, you are missing 3 critical opportunities to help your child have positive associations with school:

-Helping the Teacher nurture. The teacher wants to know how your child’s night was. Did she sleep well? What did she have for breakfast? When your Teacher has insight into why one of his shoes is off, or why he’s cranky, she can seamlessly adapt to comfort him. There are up to 14 children in that room. It helps to know how each of them are feeling from the start of the day. If you are texting or distracted as you walk out, the Teacher is left to guess what your child's baseline is because she doesn't have your attention.

-Telegraphing trust and security to your child. When a child witnesses their parents positively and enthusiastically interact with another adult it signals that this is a known, trusted person. Making eye contact and having a friendly tone with the Teacher smooths the transition and makes it feel familiar. It becomes a transition, not a separation.

-A positive parent/Teacher relationship. Your child’s preschool Teacher is empathetic to the fact you may feel some guilt about working, or that it might hurt to miss out on milestones. She wants to talk about all the little moments of your child’s day; she wants to make you part of them. Rather than treat drop-off as a transaction, see it as a daily act of building this relationship.

Being distracted by a smartphone is something that Preschool Teachers and Parents never had to consider as a factor in separation anxiety before. All of the Teachers in our study said they see the effects everyday and can make demonstrable behavioral comparisons between the children of distracted parents and present parents. Try it and see. You might just discover how much you gain by waiting to check your phone after drop-off. And the same goes for end of day pick-up! 

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