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6 yo having extreme anxiety over 1st grade.
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6 yo having extreme anxiety over 1st grade.

My daughter just started 1st grade 2 1/2 weeks ago.  She's having extreme difficulties transitioning to 1st grade.  (She did great last year in Kindergarten-same school).  She says she "hates school" & "misses me" & is "scared of school - everything is different & hard".  She's having trouble sleeping (in the past has ALWAYS been a good sleeper & eater).  She wakes up many times a night & can't get back to sleep.  She's not eating breakfast in the mornings before school.  She complains of tummy aches & has even spit up before school.  She cries every night & every morning all the way to school.  Her teacher seems to be very nice & supportive.  She says my daughter is very often teary & emotional but otherwise is very sweet, reserved & conscientious.  She does all her work well.  She & I have talked with the school counselor & he say's it's just anxiety over transitioning to 1st grade, give it time it'll get better.  So far, it hasn't.  The anxieties get worse the night before a spelling test or AR test (which I don't understand because she did those last year - the spelling tests are new though).  She gets herself all worked up & then starts crying about all sorts of things like the house catching on fire, our car crashing, etc, etc.  I tell her to think about good things & she says she can't.  Her dad & I are at our wit's end.  It saddens me to see her like this.  I want her to enjoy school & not be so afraid.  Do you think she needs professional help?  How can I help her adjust?  Thanks.
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It is reasonable to think that the guidance you received from the school coounselor is prudent - i.e., that the symptoms have been precipitated by the adjustment to first grade and that they will wane as time goes on. By way of reassurance, the 2+ weeks of time is not viewed as 'long' in relation to her symptoms, so you needn't be discouraged by that. In any case, it's important to maintain your equanimity and patience, all the while insisting that your daughter attend school even though she is voicing reluctance.

Were her symptoms evident even before the first day of school - i.e., did they precede her actual arrival at school? I ask this to help rule out that she encountered some negative experience during the first 1-2 days and to which she is reacting, vs anxiety of a more general sort related to the transition.

Be sure to ask her what would be helpful in ameliorating her distress. She may not have much to offer (besides staying home from school!), but it's worth checking. Ask her in this format: What can you do to feel better? As you can see, this puts the focus on her own problem-solving efforts. It conveys the message that she can cope with this.
13 Comments
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I would seek professional help since it is effecting her home and school life. Even if it's a phase, it will be comforting for you to hear that from a professional who can tell you when to become concerned. Often times they can give you tips to help your daughter overcome the fear.
As for my daughter, at age 5 she became so terrified of birds, flies and moths that I feared sending her to kindergarten because she would literally run into walls to escape these things and would sweat profusely. We couldn't let her ride her bicycle either for fear of crashing into cars. The psychiatrist spoke to her alone and gave us some good ideas. After a few months things quieted down and I felt more comfortable leaving her outdoors alone. She now 12 and hates the bugs, but birds are okay and no more running into traffic or into walls to escape anything.
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Thanks.  She was a little nervous about starting 1st grade before school started.  She had heard that 1st grade is harder than Kindergarten.  But the overall anxiety & crying started about 3-4 days into the start of the year.
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Avatar_f_tn
My daughter developed test-related school anxiety, and general school anxiety a couple weeks into 2nd grade. (she's better now) The school councellor told us about the same as yours, and we tried to ride it out some, but it was ruining her life, so we went to see a child phychologist. It turned out that my daughter was being bossed and controlled by another child. Not yelling and being abusive, but very subtley, You have to play with me, you have to sit with me, you have to do what I say. Everyone thought they were friends - we even had her over to play a couple times. It turned out that the other child was forcing my daughter to invite her over, and threatening her whenever she was afraid my daughter would not comply with her. She would call our house a couple times a day. My daughter didn't tell anyone, not even the doc. We finally caught on when I saw my daughter talking on the phone in silent tears. I took the phone out of her hand and listened to what the girl was saying to my daughter....I want you to wear this tomorrow, and sit with me at lunch, and I am going to come over to your house tomorrow, and if you don't, then I am going to tell everyone really bad things about you and my big brother will get you. I was incensed, to say the least. I hung up without saying anything, and we didn't answer the phone the rest of the day. End of story, the school councellor and teacher were to monitor closely that this child was never anywhere near my daughter anymore, she was told never to call my house again, and the psychologist worked with her on her guilt and fear feelings, and I worked with them both on when it is ok to tell an adult, even when someone tells you not to. My daughter will start middle school this year, and she still hates to talkk on the phone and tends to bottle things up rather than tell me what's bothering her.

My point is that even kids are complex, and she can get school anxiety from something that isn't acedemic. Good luck, I know just how you feel.
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Avatar_n_tn
My son is having the SAME 1st grade anxiety problems. I was told to give him a picture of us that he can keep in his pocket so that when he gets sad, he can pull it out and look at it. I think that only made him worse because he started crying as soon as I gave it to him. My son does not want to go to 1st Grade either. Our talks have revealed that 1st grade is harder than kindergarten. They don't get as much free time and P.E. is shorter this year. He also does not like to write in his daily journal because he's not a good speller. I tried telling him spelling doesn't count in his journal, but that doesn't help. His diet has not been affected but he has started to wet the bed again and he has been coming in our room to sleep more often. How can I have effective conversations with him to get him through this anxiety? He doesn't feel sure of himself like he did in kindergarten. Is there anything I can do to help him? He is usually a very proud little boy who is always smiling and laughing. Before 1st grade started, he rarely ever cried. However! When I pick him up he tells me he has had a GREAT day and he is very excited to tell me all that's happened. Ahhh! Help?
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Hi,

I happen to be a former anxiety-ridden first grader!  (I'm 26 now).  I remember how sad I felt and how awful it was.  Kindergarten was easy-as-pie, but first grade was another story.  I went to the "nurse" every day.  She would say, "What hurts?" and I didn't know.  She would let me sit in her office a while (there was a skeleton in there!) and then if I didn't feel better she would call my mom.  My mom would come to get me and I would be instantly healed.  I remember her saying, "You are fine, honey, why don't you stay today?" and I didn't want to.  Anyway, I wanted to share with you what ended up being enormously helpful to me.  My mom came to school for lunch everyday and ate with me in the cafeteria.  I know that not all moms can manage this, but it is what helped me in the end.  Just knowing that she would be there halfway through the day was enough to make me feel better about school.  I can see how a picture wouldn't have worked for me.  I think for me it was the fear not only of "what might happen to me" but it was also "what might happen to my mom while I am at school and not home".  Anyway, I hope this helps!

Erica
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This is a very interesting conversation.  I just posted my frustrations over my 6 year old who just started first grade at a NEW PUBLIC school, after attending kindergarden and prior 3 years at Montessori.  These past four years seemed to go smoothly and effortlessly in school anyways.  We moved and thought it would be an easier adjustment if he was getting to go to school with the same new kids he had met in the new neighborhood.  Look at my comments where I posted under "5 Year Old Boy" having kindergarden troubles.  My son has been in trouble most of the time since starting there.  This conversation is so interesting because all he has been saying is that he hates it there, he wants to stay home, and thinks everything he does there is stupid.  Today, even after all his trouble, he said the first and ONLY POSITIVE thing he has been caught saying Since August 6th (first day of school).  He said he can't wait until Wednesday.  Last week I volunteered to do AR testing for my son's teacher on Wednesdays.  Apparently last week, it made him happy that I was there, even though I was gone by 9am.  Now this week he can't wait until Wednesday?  I have also gone to lunch twice so far last month.  He really enjoyed it though.  He has told me the other kids want to know when I'm coming again.  He keeps asking me each week if I will have lunch with him.  Maybe this is what he needs to get him through his adjustments too, just like Erica.  I wonder if he could actually earn a week of green circles.
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Avatar_n_tn
How about instead of trying to get green circles on a weekly basis for an award.  Try on a daily basis with the award being you having lunch with him the next day.
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MY BEST FRIEND IS HAVING THE SAME PROBLEM WITH HER 6 YEAR OLD - NIGHMARES AND ALL!  ANY SUGGESTIONS - DID YOU RESOLVE YOUR PROBLEM?  HER MOM IS AT HER WIT'S END AND CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE - ANY ADVICE WOULD BE HELPFUL!
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Hello,  

I am so glad that I found this site.  My doughter just started to have first grade anxiety.  It all started when she stayed home from school for two days from a bug.  She did not want to go back to school.  She said a boy was giving her a hard time on the bus, she said she misses me, the buss scars her it is not safe without seatbelts.  At this point she will not even get on the buss.  I drive her to school and she will not leave my side untill she sees a friend.  Today we got to school after all the kids had gone in and she wouldn't get out of the car.  I had to walk her in and then she wanted me to walk her to her class room.  The principle told her that it was not allowed.  She had been attending this school since 3 year old preschool.

  The gidence counselor says she is ok at school but misses me.  I have put a picture in her bag, I wright her special notes, and I give her lots of hugs and kisses.  Nothing seems to help her anxiety.  She had a hard time eating breakfast.  She says she likes school but her stumic herts so she needs to stay home.

I am going to look into a bully friend therory that I read about.  She did mention that a friend from kindergarted that is in her class this year gets mad at her when she tries to  makes new friends.  

If any of you have any  more ideas please let me know.  Mander
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My daughter started 1st grade 6 wks ago and has been crying for 5wks now. Her teacher and Vice-Principal said she was just having a hard time because it was a new year and that she would get over it in a few days but it hasen't.  Four days into the crying I had her moved to another class room because she was scared of her teacher and now she's got a really nice teacher who is trying to help her over-come this anxiety.Her counselor at school is also working with her and trying to get her to focus on the positive instead of the neg. She is going to sleep crying, she complains her tummy hurts every moring & spits up, she wakes up at nite crying, she has bad dreams, she comes to sleep with us in the middle of the nite, she is counting the days constantly until she does not have to go to school,she cries when she wakes up and on our way to school, she cries at school, she has to be pulled off of me at school so that I can leave, I leave her crying and yelling at me to please not leave her alone and I feel like a terrible mom.
We are taking her to counseling with a Child Psy. and everyone keeps telling me to have patience but its hard when your seeing your child going through all of this and nothing that you say or do helps, so I know exactly how you feel mom2kidzz.  Your not alone.
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I have a 6 year old boy who started to have anxity for school for a week now.  School has been in session for a little over a month.  He complaints about stomach aches in the morning from the time he gets up.  He will not eat breakfast and on the way to School will throw up.  For the last week he has throw up at least once a day. He throws up in the School and I have been called each time.  I spoke with his teacher and she now understands what is going on with him.  So the School does not call me any more but he is still throwing up and complaining of stomach aches.  I now relaize that this has happen to him everytime he goes thru. changes in his life.  This is not the first time he is doing this.  Do I need to get help for him?  I don't know what to do?  His Dad and I have try talking to him but his response is that he doesn't know why he is doing this.  When he first started Kindgarden he did this for about a month and then he was fine.  When will it stop?  I am so stressed out about it and seeing him like this hurts even more because I don't know how to help him.  Nothing I do or try to do helps him.  Does this mean that everytime he has changes in his life he will react in this manner.  I am so worried for him because he never eat very well and now its even worse.  What ever little he eats he is throwing it up.  He's now complaining that he does not want to go to school.  Since he was 6 months old he has been going thru.  this with the throwing up.  I have had alot of medical test done on him and finally the doctor said its something he will grow out of.  He is now 6 years old when will he grow out of it?  It is so avoious now that anytime there are changes in is life this is his reaction.  Help! What should I do?
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Wow.  Turns out there are a lot of kids out there really struggling with First Grade Anxiety (and moms stressing about their kids!).  I wanted to give everyone an update.  My daughter has just completed her 1st 9 weeks of school.  It took about 6 weeks for her to totally adjust to school.  She's made some friends in her class and I started carpooling in the morning with a friend of hers (this really cut down on the crying on the way to school).  I've only eaten lunch with her once, she loved having me there & wasn't upset when I left.  I'm hoping after her fall break, I'll be able to volunteer in the classroom. She loves her teacher & asst. teacher (even writes them love letters!). Hang in there everyone, hope it'll be better soon!
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