Tag: calming skills

Five Ways to Stop Preschool Drop Off Separation Anxiety (Yes, They Really Work!)

CryingThe hardest part of my day used to be prying my preschooler and kindergartners arms off my legs when I had to drop them off at school. My sons’ howls of protest hurt my heart at the same time it made me wonder what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with them. All three of my boys did it at some stage or another. I can reassure you that this does pass…. my oldest son did absolutely no leg-holding or crying when he left for college last week.

After surviving three kids’ separation anxiety, or “drop off dramas” and talking with many parents about what has helped them, here are a few ideas to experiment with. Please let me know how they work!

Drop off drama usually follows hot on the tail of “Getting Ready in the Mornings Drama” which for many families is the worst time of day. Drop off drama is about a young person experiencing a painful transition from their beloved parent to a room full of new kids and adults. This is very stressful for some little people, especially those who prefer to be at home.

1. Fill the Bucket!

If mornings are stressful, drop offs are bound to be stressful as well. I love the idea of taking a few minutes right before drop off… either in the car or while still at home… to “fill the bucket” of your little one. Imagine if you said something like this, “I know that saying goodbye is hard some days, so how about if we take some time to snuggle and get you all filled up with mommy/daddy-time?”

2. Acknowledge the Sadness and Encourage Communication

Acknowledge your child’s sadness. Invite her to “get her sad out” while you are there to hold her. This can be a good time to read one of the children’s books that address the pain of goodbye The Kissing Hand, The Invisible String, Love You Forever, Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You). It can be fascinating to ask your little one to get out all of his/her sadness while you are together. She might cry, he might protest. You can just be there and say things like, “I know, it’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it?’ “I love it when you can say how you feel.” You can even invite some fit-throwing. It sounds counter-productive but I promise, it has helped many parents tone down drama and end tantrums in some children. Encouraging your child to feel all his feelings and share them ahead of time lets them feel strongly but do so in the safety of your presence and the privacy of home.

3. Teach Self-Soothing

When it’s NOT the critical drop off moment, have a conversation with your child about what he can say to himself that will help drop offs go better. Hint: He won’t have a clue. That’s when you get to teach positive self-talk by saying something like: “Some kids find it helps to say, ‘I can have fun at school even when I miss my daddy.” Or, “It’s ok to feel sad and mad about saying goodbye. I can handle it.” Or “My mommy/daddy’s love is with me wherever I go.”

4. Give Choices from a “Go To School Menu”

Give them three choices for the three days they go to preschool and each week they can pick which day they use each style. Write them on a simple chart.  No repeats are allowed in a week.

The choices are:
1) Scream and cry and hold onto Mommy’s legs all the way into the classroom.
2) Scream and cry in the car and then walk in holding mommy’s hands, give a big hug and say “goodbye.” 
3) Snuggle with a book before getting in the car and play follow the leader into school, blow kisses and smile.

On the days they chose the scream and cry model, really encourage them do it as intensely as they can. If they start to cry on a non-cry day, warmly remind them that they already had their crying day for that week. After all the build-up and permission to do some good fit-throwing, some kids simply no longer feel the need to do “Drop-off-Drama” and the situation can resolve itself fairly quickly.

5. Make a Fun “Going To School” Book Starring Your Little One

Take them to preschool on a day that they don’t actually attend. Take pictures of them every step of the way. Since there is no impending good-bye, there won’t be any drama. Photograph them smiling in their carseats, smiling in front of the school, walking down the hall holding your hand and standing in the classroom waving a pretend goodbye. Then leave the school, go for a treat and talk about how it felt to go to school so happy. Next, print up the pictures and make a super simple little little book with your child’s name in it: For example: “William Goes to School” book.

Each morning after that, ask your child if they want to go to school happy or sad and let them look at the book. This reinforces that they were able to go to school happy and by looking at the pictures, they will remember the experience of going in peacefully. This technique worked so well with one mom that her child never fussed after that.

Important Things to Remember:

Show compassion for your children who fuss at drop off — saying goodbye to their “home-base” is painful for them. It’s a life skill they must learn, but acknowledge that it’s a hard one.

Have no expectation that this should be easy for them or you. If it’s not, it’s not. It can be a great opportunity for you to teach them different ways to master this important skill.

Put some time and effort into switching up the pattern and you could save yourself and your child a lot of drama and heartache in the long run.



Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

“I Overreacted and Gave My Child Too Harsh a Consequence…. Now What..?”

Dad: Kerry, I’m a single dad and wondering how I can gracefully back out from having overreacted and given my son a harsher consequence than I should have?

Clever kidHe’s 4 and was throwing water out of the bathtub. I got mad and told him he had to go straight to bed with no stories. I cooled down a few minutes later and realized I had overreacted. I told him I was sorry that I’d gotten so irritated and I had reconsidered and that he didn’t have to go to bed yet. But now I’m worried that I’ve lost credibility with him. Was there a better way to handle that?

Kerry: Chris, I think the way you handled it was completely appropriate. It’s ok to teach your kids that sometimes we adults re-think things and change our minds. It’s also ok to model that a normal part of being a grown-up is making mistakes and then fixing them.

If you want to bring a little more playfulness into your parenting, you can try a “re-do.” That’s where you tell your son that you didn’t like the way you handled the bathtub scene and that you would like to re-do it. You playfully back out of the bathroom and pretend you are talking backwards. Then you stick your head back in and ask if he’s ready for you to do that scene over. You can say, “Bathtub Scene, Take Two.” You might even ask him to splash the water again! (That’s optional.) Then you go in and handle the situation the way you wished you had done it in the first place.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2014 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and
Family Therapist
and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps
parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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I’m Running Away!

IWasGoingtoRunAwayThe other night my 7 year old son kept trying to argue about something.  I used my new Love and Logic skill of not engaging and calmly replied “I know.”

He ended with “What is wrong with you!!”

I replied again, “I know.”

He yelled “Ugh!” and ran off.

The next morning he comes down to breakfast with a fully loaded backpack, suitcase, and pillow in hand.

“Mom, last night I was going to run away.”

“Oh, I replied, “Thanks for telling me.  Let’s talk about it.”

I realized that this was the time to discuss what was bothering him since she was calm and I was calm.  We had a great talk and he felt understood, loved and secure and I felt peaceful and logical. It was clear that talking it out in the heat of the argument wasn’t as effective as waiting.

— Stephanie
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Success Story: I Want It!

After leaving our first Love and Logic class we picked up our kids from childcare.  We got some animal crackers from the vending machine and were on our way to the car.  Our 5 year old ran ahead of us and we asked her to come back several times.  She ignored us.

When I was buckling her into the car seat I said, “Poor thing, you didn’t listen to daddy, so you don’t get to eat your animal crackers now.”

She was very upset and started screaming “Daddy, I want animal crackers!”  

I responded, “I know.”

As she screamed it louder and louder each time and I calmly responded, “I know.”

Her mother had to hide her face in her scarf because she started to giggle.  After about 10 minutes, my daughter stopped yelling and started giggling too! 

We were thrilled that we stayed calm through the tantrum and happy that we were strong enough to hold the limit firm.

Shelly Moorman
©2010 Shelly Moorman, Head & Heart Parents



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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Setting Limits for Bathtime

Toddler bathtime limitsAfter our son threw water out of the bathtub I said, “What a bummer.  It’s going to take a while to clean up the water so we won’t have time for books tonight.”

He was devastated, but helped me clean up.  He kept crying to read books and I used my brain dead statement and said “I know,”  a whole bunch of times. We stuck with it and it felt really good to stay calm!

Shelly Moorman
©2010 Shelly Moorman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Success Story: “I’m Not Going to Kiss You Anymore”

We always discuss in class about kids who will escalate to test the new skills mom and dad are using.  It’s the old “short term pain for long term gain” adage.

This mom thought it would be something only older kids would do, but preschoolers know how to escalate with hurtful words too.

Luckily, this mom knew to stay her course and not react.  Read what happens…

Using “I know” really started working for me with our 3 year old daughter.  I was surprised when she escalated her response to “I’m not going to kiss you anymore!”  I was shocked and heartbroken, but I stayed brain dead and said, “I know.”

Just 20 minutes later, after things calmed down, she came to me and said “Mommy, I want a hug.”

Shelly Moorman
©2010 Shelly Moorman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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When is it Okay to Rescue?

Young girl with life ringThose who know Love and Logic™ know the damage done by C.H.P.S.
“Chronic Helicopter Parent Syndrome.”

Parents who chronically rescue their kids from the consequences of their poor decisions create kids who are chronically irresponsible and chronically unhappy.

“You are so weak that you can’t survive without me” is the unintentional yet very real message sent by this parenting style.

While this is true, are there any circumstances when it’s okay, or essential, to rescue our kids?

Absolutely! Foster W. Cline, M.D. provides some “rules for rescue.”
• Don`t hesitate to rescue when life and limb are in danger.
• It’s fine to occasionally rescue really responsible kids.
• It’s typically a big mistake to rescue irresponsible ones.
• It’s often okay to rescue when your child doesn’t expect it.
• It’s almost always unwise to rescue when your child demands it.

Good parents rescue their kids from time to time. Why? Because they realize that some day they may need to be rescued by their kids!

The great challenge for all of us is to determine whether doing so fosters love and mutual respect, or dependency, resentment, and irresponsibility.

Dr. Charles Fay
©2010 Jim Fay, Charles Fay, Ph.d.& Love and Logic® Institute

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part 3: Happy Family Evenings End With Happy Hour

Wouldn’t it be nice to start each evening with some time to sit, relax and chat with your husband, wife or significant other?

<Parenting Help for Happy FamiliesEvening parenting takes a lot of energy after a full day of either working outside the home or parenting. One couple I worked with used to try to sit and talk when the working dad got home from work, but their sons would whine, “You want to talk to mommy more than to me!” Their kids would be disruptive and demand attention. Mom and dad just wanted a few minutes of peace to relax and catch up. Sitting and talking with each other became more frustrating than it was worth.

This family made their evenings with their boys, ages 3 and 4, so much more enjoyable by doing the following:

Mom now tells the boys that when Daddy gets home, the grown ups are going to sit and talk for 20 minutes. It’s their “happy hour” because sitting and talking to each other makes them happy. She says, “I know that when Daddy comes home, you want his attention right away and it’s hard to wait. So this is your time to tell me how you feel about that.” They tell her how they don’t like to wait and how they want to play “Hop On Pop” with daddy. She encourages them to say it a bunch of times to get it out of their system. She listens lovingly and encourages them to say everything they have to say about the matter. She asks, “Is there anything else you need to say to get it out of your system?”

Next, mom asks them, “What can you do to keep yourself happy while Daddy and I have our Happy Time? She gives them choices of playdough, an art project, a TV show, the sandbox, their train set. She could even write these choices on popsicle sticks and let them draw an activity each evening so that it feels like a surprise to see what their activity will be.

When Daddy comes home, he give hugs, kisses and smiles to everyone. Then explains to the boys that for every minute they entertain themselves peacefully and without interruping, they earn a minute of “Hop on Pop” wrestling time with Daddy.

This smart couple now gets to start most evenings with time to relax and connect before they head into “parent duty.” And now, even if they collapse into bed after the kids are asleep, they’ve gotten to enjoy each other’s company for a few precious minutes. Kids may seem to WANT every minute of your attention, but giving them the gift of modeling a good relationship is invaluable, even if it means they must entertain themselves for a bit.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part Two: Happy Family Evenings Continue With An Intention

Most of us SAY that family comes first, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if living that motto was as easy as saying it? Whether we like it or not, work often drains the best from many of us and our family gets stuck the leftovers.

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesDale used to come home stressed, tired, and irritated by the people he had to deal with at his job. While he drove home, he’d be on the phone, finishing up his work day and dealing with more stress. When he walked in the door, he’d often be on a phone call, waving off his little girls who were antsy to see daddy and get his attention. He had no transition time and the girls seemed like just another demand in his exhausting day. Mom would be annoyed, wishing he’d walk in the door happy to see his little girls and give her a hug and a kiss. Not a good start to the evening.

There is a quick trick that can make a huge difference in how evening family time goes. I don’t guarantee much when it comes to human behavior, but if I were to try, I’d hedge my bets on this technique for parents who work outside of the home. Stay at home parents can use the same technique, just from inside the house.

Dale started to use a 10 minute technique that dramatically changed evenings for his entire family. Here’s what he did:

He started pulling over on his way home to take a few minutes to transition from “work mode” to “family mode.”
He turned off the ringer on his phone.
He turned on a song that put him into a good mood. Sometimes he just savored the silence.
He sat and soaked in the view and took a few conscious breaths to slow down his brain.
He talked himself into leaving work at the office so that he could show up fully present for the ones he loved most in all the world.

Lastly, he set an intention for his time with the family that evening. Sometimes it was to make sure to look his wife and each child in the eyes and ask about their day…. and then to actually listen to their answers. Some days he committed to making sure to smile at each of his family members. Other days he’d focus on being a good partner in the tasks of dishes and putting the kids to bed. Sometimes he committed (to himself) to take the girls on a bike ride. Once in a while, he would look up a joke that he could tell at dinner. And always, he set his intention to be as loving as he could be. This was a big step for his goal of living without regret.

Ten minutes was all it took for this man to show up as the beloved, superstar daddy that he was to his two little girls. It made his wife love him more. Evenings were transformed. Not perfect, but transformed.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part One: Happy Family Evenings Start with a Check In

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesEvening family time can sound so lovely … family dinner, playtime, baths, stories and cuddles.

In many households, however, people don’t quite feel like they’re “livin’ the dream.” Quite the contrary, in fact.

Many couples I work with tend to “read” each other and make guesses about how their mate is feeling. Fact: they often guess wrong. They mistake stress for grumpiness and tiredness for rejection. I don’t care how long you’ve been with someone, it is still always your job to let your darling know how you’re feeling and what you need.

It might sound like this:

“I have nothing left to give after being with these little people all day. I’m not grumpy, I’m just empty. I need to just sit with your arm around me and have a grown up conversation. And I need you to ask me about my day.”

“My brain is full after an intense day at work, but once I slow down a little, I’d love to play with the kids and give you a break.”

“I’m kind of irked right now and need some alone time before I’m ready to be a good parent. How can we make that work so that it feels ok for you?”

Imagine if each evening before you and your loved one showed up at home with young kids needing care and attention, you had a quick phone call to share what kind of mood you’re each in. You wouldn’t have to bother with the frustration that comes with misreading each other’s cues. You might be better able to meet each other’s needs and enjoy each other and your kids.

Single parent? Same holds true, you just have to do it with yourself. Stop and ask yourself how you feel and what you need. If your kids are old enough, you can ask them how they’re feeling and what they need. Maybe every one needs down time. Or food right away. Or family snuggles. Then figure out how everyone can get their needs met at some point during the evening. Maybe dad needs down-time first and then he’ll be able to play some catch. Or maybe the preschooler needs cuddle time right away, but then agrees to play quietly for 20 minutes while mom sits and unwinds. It’s not always easy, but it is possible for everyone to get their needs met eventually; it just takes some strategizing.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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