Is your child still crying at the school gate? 5 top tips for settling your child in the classroom.

Now that your little one has been at school in Reception for half a term, the majority of them will have settled in and be quite happy to go to school with a smile. Most will bounce in, hold their teacher’s hand and say goodbye without a backwards glance! But not all…. I’m not talking about the odd day of not wanting to go due to tiredness or ‘have I got to go anymore?’ but the child who just can’t seem to settle whatever you do as their parent. As a teacher with 20 years experience, I thought I would share with you my thoughts and tips which I hope you will find helpful.

Let me start by saying don’t worry. It’s tricky not to though isn’t it? But honestly, please try not to worry as most children are fine once they are actually at school. Some children just get ‘stuck’ in their mindset and it becomes part of the ‘routine’ of school. It’s school so I cry and so on. As parents and teachers we need to show young children that it’s ok to miss mummy or daddy but that school is ok too. But how can we do that and change the way they start their school day?

Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Let them take a cuddly toy or similar to school so that they have something from home. Many schools don’t allow toys but I don’t agree with this rule for Reception aged children. Some children just need a little comfort. Explain that the toy is there in case they feel sad at school so that they can remember that Mummy or Daddy are not far away. Let them keep it in their bag so that is not in view all the time (this is not helpful as they need to get on with school life too).
  2. Have a photo of Mummy or Daddy in their bag so that they can look at it when they feel they need to. As a teacher I would let children have a photo on display to be honest so that all the children can talk about their families together. I make it a happy chat so that the children can see that talking about their families is lovely. It also builds confidence in the children when speaking a loud. They can take a sneaky glimpse at their photo when they are feeling anxious.
  3. Have a secret ‘kiss’ on their arm under their sleeve. This is a good one that I have asked parents to use when they are feeling desperate. Use lipstick and make a kiss on their skin but they can only have it there if they keep it a secret for when they feel a little sad. It’s so that they always know you are always thinking of them too.
  4. Try to stick to exactly the same routine each day and prep your child each morning with positive language such as, ‘Its a school day so let’s get dressed and have a yummy breakfast.’ Smile lots and give lots of praise. When you get to school remind them that they are going to have a lovely day in school. Say this to them. Do not say, ‘I know that school makes you sad but…..’ This will only make them sad! Remind them of a happy thing they did the day before so that they develop positive memories and feelings about school.
  5. Do not try to reason with them when they are crying or angry; they will not hear you. Just keep repeating that they are going to have a lovely day and that Mrs Teacher will look after them. Try to avoid eye contact and have the same routine each morning which can be decided with your child’s teacher. For example, bring your child into the classroom, help them put away their things, tell them that you love them and leave. Hand them over to the same adult each time which will possibly be a teacher assistant who will find them a very important job to do. This MUST be consistent. Children are very, very clever and will try everything they can to get what they want but at the end of the day, they have to go to school so you have to be strong for everybody. If they see that you are upset or annoyed at their behaviour they are winning. Lastly, do NOT let them have a day at home if they ask you because you will be back at square one.

This can seem like the trickiest thing ever when this happens to you and I have dealt with crying parents and children over this; you are not alone. The only other advice is to talk to your child perhaps at the weekend when they are not tired and hungry. Ask them why they cry each day and listen to them. Do not ask them leading questions such as, ‘do you cry because you are unhappy/ you don’t have a friends/ because you are lonely?’ etc Let them tell YOU why. Mostly they will not know why or it will because they miss you. Trying the above things will help.
If all these things fail, your child may have a separation anxiety disorder. It is worth investigating this by talking to your child’s teacher if you are worried.
Do contact me if you want to chat about any points in this post and I will happily try to help you.

Mission Mindfulness
3 Little Buttons
The Tactical Mummy



  • Oh the stories I could tell… the times I’ve wanted to shut my blinds and tell the hovercraft parents to go home and have a cup of tea and let me do my job! Lol

    • Haha! Well there are those types of parents too! X

  • This is great advice, Sophie. I agree with you. The best thing is to establish a routine, the same routine each day, so that with each step along the way, the child is being prepared for the goodbye. Once the parent is gone and activities for the day begin, the children usually get in, and have a good time.
    I like the idea of the “secret kiss”. I hadn’t heard that before, but I think it’s nice to have a photo or a special note that says “I love you” as reminders throughout the day.

    • Thank you Norah! These are just good ideas that have worked for me in the past. I’m working my way through your lovely games! Plan to try one in class tomorrow…x

      • We gather up good ideas as we go, don’t we? It’s nice to be able to share them with younger ones coming on so they learn from our experience. That’s exciting, Sophie. Thank you. I look forward to hearing how it goes. 🙂

  • Lots of great advice here. I was a primary school teacher for a number of years and I’ve seen first-hand the kids who scream while their parents are leaving and are thoroughly happy for the rest of the day. So I thought I’d be okay when it came to my turn to be the dropping-off parent, but it’s so hard. Thankfully, my eldest has always enjoyed school. We’re just ramping up for the little one to start now…fingers crossed… #stayclassymama

    • It is so different ‘on the other side’ isn’t it Lucy? Thank you for commenting. x

  • My daughter isn’t in school yet but she does cry at the nursery drop-off every day and it’s rough – love the idea of a secret kiss! #stayclassymama

  • Really good advice particularly the secret kiss. As a teacher I would say that some parents stick around too long and this makes it worse. Drop off and leave quickly. Also peeping through classroom windows is really unhelpful #thesatsesh

    • Yes! Isn’t it! Thank you for commenting. X

  • Love these tips, especially about the cuddly item. I took a blankie to school until I was in third grade. It just made me feel better to touch it while working at my desk. #DreamTeam

    • Ah bless! Yes, anything from home I think. xx

  • I love this post and the fact you have such a solid background for speaking out.
    I can confirm as mother of two that crying is totally normal, don’t let it scare you. One daycare teacher once told me “In 10 years I’ve never witnessed a child who had issues with being left at school. They cry for 2 weeks top and that’s it”. Change is terrifying for children, that’s just it.
    Funny story, I had some worries with my adopted kid. As you may imagine there are additional issues to take into account with adopted children. We were told to be very sensitive to this passage. He now attends a “baby park” for 4h/week. Took 3-4 weeks for him to stop crying and already on the 2nd week he was crying for few minutes only. Luckily everything went well at the end.
    I also want to share a harsh Finnish proverb “Either you do it or you cry and do it” 😀 Nordic spirit eheh

    • That’s an awesome comment! Thank you so much for commenting and you are right, crying is normal but sometimes worrying isn’t it for parents? x

  • I’m not there yet but these are great tips, especially the secret kiss I never would have thought of that.

  • Absolutely spot on tips here and not obvious ones either. I love the idea of the ‘secret kiss’ and the photo in the bag. I agree that rountine is key and the positive language in the lead up too. I think it’s lovely that you offer people the chance to contact you about this too – that is so lovely and such a good idea which I will probably use too on some posts if you don’t mind! #thesatsesh xx

    • Of course! Why not share the love! But honestly, it’s a caring profession we are in so let’s care and help I say. Xx

  • Great tips here, it is amazing how quickly children do adapt, really, to what must be a major change in routine and what they are familiar with! #tacticaltuesdays

    • That’s it isn’t it and it’s good for children to leave parents for a bit and learn to be with other children in a fun setting. X

  • We’re lucky that our biggest little has settled really well into reception, but her little brother struggles at nursery drop off so I’ll try these tips with him! I love the secret kiss idea on his arm. Thank you for sharing with #DreamTeam x

    • Oh I’m glad it may prove useful to you. X

  • These sound like fab tips. I’m so lucky mine just settled right in, it must be so heartbreaking when you get one that doesn’t 🙁 #StayClassyMama

    • Yes it really must. Thank you for commenting. Xx

  • Great tips, and they’re all good ones. I have tried the teddy bear cuddly and repeating the same routine…it works. Thanks for sharing. #dreamteam

    • I’m so Glad! Thanks for the comment. X

  • As a Mum to a 4 almost 5 year-old, I love this post. Thankfully I haven’t had any issues (yet – I don’t like to tempt fate!) with school, but I really love the tips you have given, especially the photo of mummy and daddy or the secret kiss – this is adorable! I’m certain these tips will help many a family and I will be sure to use some of them if the need arises (although I’m hoping it won’t!) Thanks for joining in at #TriumphantTales, do come back Tuesday!

  • Love this! Especially the secret kiss idea. Some really lovely tips here. Thanks so much for linking up with #tacticaltuesdays xxx

    • Glad you loved it. Thank you for the kind comment. 😃

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