There are a few things you can do to make drop-offs less difficult for your daughter (and you). First, I recommend that you ask the childcare provider for her ideas since, I assure you, she has seen this happen before. Additionally, here are three tried and true "good good-byes" that I have come across:
- Give your child a "pocket full of kisses" at the center right before leaving. Explain to her that if she misses you during the day, she can reach into her pocket (or pocketbook) and pull out a kiss. Kiss her several times on her palm, counting together as you go, and let her tuck each one away for safekeeping. If she wants, have her give you a few kisses to tuck away too.
- Find a small snapshot of your family for her to carry around (or put in her daypack). I did this with my younger son and it worked beautifully. He carried it constantly for a few days, then lost interest in it and kept it in his backpack for "emergencies." You may want to make sure you have reprints of the photo or laminate it since they can get lost or ragged pretty fast. If a photo isn't appealing, see if your child wants to carry something else of yours (like a scarf or inexpensive bracelet).
- Ask your local librarian to recommend some good children's books on working moms to share with your child. Meredith's Mother Takes the Train, by Deborah Lee Rose, is my personal favorite. There is also a wonderful Hap Palmer song (on the Baby Songs video) titled "My Mommy Comes Back" that shows toddlers who go to babysitters and have their moms pick them up later. Watch it a few times with your child, using your own narrative to relate it to her day, and learn the words. Try singing this happy song with your child as you pull up to daycare and she may start to join in!
Finally, remember that you MUST behave in a positive fashion during drop-off time — even if you are heartbroken by her crying. Avoid saying things like "Mommy will miss you, too," and instead try, "We are going to have so much fun when I see you later!" and "You're going to have such a great day — I can't wait until you tell me about it when I pick you up!" Your child will pick up on your positive attitude.
There is no single "right" way to solve this dilemma. It is really a matter of trying a variety of approaches for a few days each until you find one that best addresses the needs of your child. In the meantime, take comfort in knowing that your child is following in the footsteps of many daycare toddlers before her!