My son (2y5m) always cries when I bring him to the day care in the morning. I thought it could be because he doesn't really like it very much there, and would rather stay some time with his dad.

However, the people working at the day care told me that he stops crying after not even 5 minutes and plays very well by himself or with the other kids. Sometimes when I want to pick him up in the afternoon, he even tells me he wants to stay and play a little more. I ask him every day how it was, and he often tells me that it was fun.

I'm just very confused by this behaviour. He's been in this particular kindergarden for 3 months now, so the initial thought that he just needs to adjust also hasn't proven true.

I'm at a loss as to why he's crying in the morning, when he apparently really likes it there. Is there anything I can do or should I just try to wait this behaviour out?

  • I'm inclined to ask where you live. 2.5 years for kindergarten sounds odd to me, but what do I know? I live in the USA. Our kinder age is standardly around 5 years. Then again, look at our global ranking in education. Aside that, I found less resistance for my girls in preschool around that age simply by not making a big show of my exit. I would stick around a little to allow them to show me things, then kind of just drift off. It wasn't long before that was just normal to them.
    – Kai Qing
    Aug 10, 2016 at 1:44
  • 2
    This is very normal for kids! I was the same, and my son does the same also! No need to worry :) Aug 10, 2016 at 6:28
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    @KaiQing: It may be a terminology problem. In some countries (e.g. Germany), "kindergarden"/"kindergarten" is used for what the US would probably call "day care" or "crèche", i.e. a place where children can play as a group and are supervised and supported. I think in the US "kindergarden" is more like elementary school.
    – sleske
    Aug 10, 2016 at 7:07
  • @Kai Qing Oh, yeah, I live in Germany. I thought kindergarden here and in the US means the same thing. Sorry for the confusion :) It's a day care.
    – Kirex
    Aug 10, 2016 at 8:31
  • What is your reaction to the crying? If the child is able to control your behavior and get more attention from you, then you might be reinforcing that behavior. If you just smile, wave and say "okay, have a great day!" and leave without any more of a production or fuss, your kid will figure out that there's no point in expending the energy, and will move on. It's not a conscious thing, necessarily, it just pushes certain buttons when it they get that extra attention and feel like they are in charge. Aug 12, 2016 at 17:31

5 Answers 5


I'm at a loss as to why he's crying in the morning, when he apparently really likes it there.

Because toddlers are highly compressed balls of contradictory emotions which change on a dime and all of which feel unbelievably intense to them.

In that moment I am sure that's exactly what he feels: he wants to stay with you. So he cries. Then shortly after you're gone and it's not an option any more, he has fun. It's identical to this:

Sometimes when I want to pick him up in the afternoon, he even tells me he wants to stay and play a little more.

I am happy right now, don't change anything!

The problem isn't the emotion or whether he has fun once he accepts that he's there, it's the pivot. So you need to focus on making that handoff with less misery.

Every kid is different, but for my similarly aged son we focus almost immediately on talking about the day and what's coming. Nine times out of ten he says some variety of I don't want to go to school. We say you have to, without any real heat or making a big deal about it and go on with the morning routine.

While we do so we talk about his day. Do you think you will see your friend Mason? Are you more excited about puzzles or time in the playground? Today is art day! Are you going to paint or use crayons? What do you think is for lunch today? None of it really matters other than to communicate this is what's going to happen and to put a positive spin on it.


This is called "separation anxiety". It's a sign of a strong, loving bond, with parents. It causes some distress for parents, because no-one likes to see their child crying. But those tears stop very quickly after the parent has left.


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    My wife read about separation anxiety, and warned me that if our kids were really emotional, clingy and upset, it was just an indication of their love for us. First drop-off, my son spotted the other kids, ran over and never looked back. After a moment of awkward silence, I asked my wife, "Well.... what does THAT mean?" Aug 12, 2016 at 17:28
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    @AndrewMattson :-) It means skilled parents did a great job at developing confidence in their child and did a great job at choosing a child-care place that is welcoming and inspires children to join in.
    – user19912
    Aug 13, 2016 at 9:21

Are you carrying you child into the classroom? We have found that holding the kids hand and helping them walk into the classroom helps them disengage easier than carrying the kids and handing them off or putting them down at the classroom door.

  • I would think that carrying them, at all, might encourage clingy-ness. But, then again, I'm sure each child has their own idiosyncrasies. Aug 15, 2016 at 20:26
  • Under other circumstances, carrying them can make them feel generally more secure, and thus less clingy.
    – Warren Dew
    Sep 10, 2016 at 12:59
  • As with anything, it depends. I carry my 3 year old into daycare multiple times a week. But my suggestion comes from an experience with a foster kid of an equivalent age. Carried in, cried. Walked in holding hands, not crying. Based on what is currently happening, I would try the walking in, at least a few times. As the accepted answer states, the issue may the the transition from one activity to another. Walking in seemed to help that for my foster kis.
    – Sean
    Sep 13, 2016 at 22:55

Have you tried a role play? Give him a choice; "you can hug goodbye crying, or you can hug goodbye happy". Ask the teacher to meet you at the door, she takes him, quick hug, disconnect and go. Role play this at home at a calm time, at home. When you get to school, just play it out the same way as you did with the role play. Don't get into consoling, or doing favors. He will keep you jumping through hoops if he can to keep you there. It sounds though that you just drop off. That's good. Hug, "I love you, see you later." Done. Be confident. There's a process behind every behavior. It's a how to process, rather than a why. Which means that there is a step by step procedure he follows internally and externally, wherein crying is one of the steps. We all do it. We are usually more aware of it when trying to implement changes like a new diet, or getting rid of a habit. One step triggers the next. So, throw a wrench into it. Interrupt the process. By having teacher greet you at the door and whisk your boy away with a quick I love you and see you later... It could do the trick.
At home spend more 1 to 1 time. In twenty years working with hundreds of families, I swear by this simple strategy. Most of us spend a lot of time around our kids, and very little time getting into their world, connecting. So, 1 to 1 time is about being present, focused, uninterrupted, 1 to 1 interaction with your child for 10 minutes (min) twice per day. No cell, no electronic devices. Be present, be curious, be there with your head and body. Suggestion... spend some 1 to 1 time before school in the morning. Tell him how you would love to do this again in the evening or later. Ask him what kind of activity he might like to do later. Tell him how you're looking forward to it. This will help you be proactive. Be consistent with both strategies. Please let me know how you made out of if you have more questions or comments.


As already said this is very very normal. I've volunteered at many programs where parents have to drop kids off and I've seen this very behavior numerous times.

Kids suffer from separation anxiety, they are use to their parents taking care of them and so get afraid when their parent's leave because they aren't sure if they are safe without parents to protect them. So the kid cries at first at being separated.

However toddlers live in the moment. As soon as you are out of sight he will forget his anxiety and then be free to play and enjoy himself.

To give a comparison one 3 year old I knew both adored our classroom and had some of the worst separation anxiety I've ever seen. She would bawl her eyes out until distracted, then get down and play happily immediately after distracted from her crying. She was so bad at it I'd resorted to pretending to trip or hit something while holding her on occasion just to jossel her enough to get her attention, then we would play a quick game where I challenged her to not smile in such an absurd manner she always ended up smiling and off she would go enjoying herself the rest of the class.

Anyways the point is it's normal and not a problem and he will grow out of it. Having said that as someone who's had to take a crying kid from their parents let me tell you the one thing I often wanted to scream at some of the parents, hand the kid over and get out. Your kid will continue crying as long as you are around to remind him of his anxiety (and he thinks there is a chance his crying may work to get you to stay). I can't distract the kid and make him happy until you are gone. Please don't hang around trying to comfort him or reassure him, tell him you love him and then leave quickly so the staff can distract the kid and he can then go on having fun the rest of the day.

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