My wife and I are struggling to help our 6 year old daughter (and only child) through what we believe to be the onset of separation anxiety and adjustment to kindergarten. She attended pre-k for two years and did great; she really enjoyed herself and was generally upset when she could not attend. As we prepared for the upcoming school year she seemed excited, though every once in a while she would state that she was nervous about the prospect of starting school. This was expected because we knew it would be a big change for her. Our school district only offers full-day kindergarten, which seems like a huge transition, especially for a child who has had the benefit of having a stay-at-home mom her whole life, and only attending 3 days a week for just 3 hours at a time. She is also naturally shy in social situations...sometimes at the park she needs to be encouraged to go near other kids so she can have fun with them...she does, and has a great time once she gets going.
Though I'm writing on behalf of both my wife and myself, I'm really trying to help my wife figure out a way to maintain her sanity as the situation has gotten progressively worse. I'm very concerned for her because of the stress it has created for her. I'm trying to be a good sounding board, but being a full-time teacher and coach myself, I am not able to be at home to help her during the mornings when she is struggling the most to cope with our daughter. I have tried to make some recommendations, but I feel it would help her most if she could get see that there are many others who have had children go through the same thing, or are currently struggling with the same issues.
Our daughter attended the first 3 days of school, then didn't want to attend the last 2 days of the first week (when my wife tried to get her to school, our daughter began crying and wouldn't stop). She went to school the next week for the first 3 days again, then again, she began throwing fits in the morning, only during this week she began not really eating breakfast stating she wasn't hungry. My wife did not want to drag her into the school crying and carrying on...so the decision was made to keep her home. She failed to go to school the next day too. We talked with her about what seemed to be bothering her...she said "I just don't like it there" and "I'm bored"...we tried to let her know that the first couple of weeks are really just to help her learn the rules and procedures, as well as getting to know the other students, so there wouldn't be as much "academic stuff" to do. (She loves working with computer learning programs and is reading at the 2nd grade level). She seemed to get tired of us talking about it and out of nowhere she said she promised she was going to go to school and wasn't going to fuss about it anymore.
In the meantime, I contacted the principal of her school and let him know what was going on. He wanted to set up a conference with the teacher, school counselor, and nurse to develop a plan of action...unfortunately, our daughter really did get sick. The weekend after her second week in school, she began throwing up, and had a 102 degree temperature for the next two days. We took her to the doctor, of course, and she stayed home the first two days of the third week of school. She felt better and she went to school the remainder of the week.
The fourth week of school was her birthday week (the week of Sept. 7). She was supposed to be the star student of the week...she was excited, but at the same time...you sensed her apprehension and she would make comments here and there about "not wanting to go to school". She was still crying before school, though it wasn't quite as bad as it had been. School was shortened to four days because of the holiday; she made it though that Tuesday and Wednesday without much incident, but then got sick at her table at school on Thursday. When my wife told me about the incident over the phone I thought to myself..."Oh God...I hope the kids near her didn't make a big deal out of it...this will traumatize her and make our situation even worse." She said nobody laughed, or said anything mean when it happened. My wife went to school, took a change of clothes, and brought her home. The school policy is that any child who gets sick at school must remain at home the next day too, just in case (perfectly understandable). So our daughter was home for another four days...
Now...comes the hammer. On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, she goes back to school. She always has a great time in school when we've managed to get her there. Only on Monday this week, one of the other girls in her class makes a mean remark to our daughter about having thrown up in class. Our daughter tells us about it and says she doesn't want to go back to school...we discuss it and let her know that sometimes people say mean things and to let us know if it happened again. It did. Tuesday this week the girls does it again.
When our daughter gets home from school...it is nothing but "school was so much fun...I really like so and so..." but on this day she lets us know about the comments the other girls has made again and she doesn't want to go to school.
The next morning she's throwing up, crying hysterically when my wife is trying to get her ready for school, and it has continued all week. We went to the doctor and she does have gastritis which is probably making her tummy upset...but likely is being brought on by the anxiety. She's also developed a little bit of a bacterial infection in her urine...so the doctor prescribed some medication. She'd been complaining of stomach cramps and when we gave her the medicine, she promptly threw up...no she won't take the medicine...it has been three days non-stop now with the stomach issues. We're trying to be non-chalant about school to try lowering her level of concern about it, but the mentioning of school just sets her off. "I don't know if I'll feel better before school on Monday", she says...we reply, we're hoping she does...she's insistant that she won't...we're at a loss.
My wife tells me that it has been a struggle every day for nearly 1 1/2 hours before school just getting our daughter to dress, brush teeth, eat, etc. She's losing her mind and we need help.
If you have found techniques that have been rather successful in dealing with this, or suggestions, please let me know. The principal said a few weeks ago to just bring her to school...we'll get her to class...and she'll get over it. It was working, but now it has been a nightmare. Our daughter, bless her, has been a 10 - 12 hour / night sleeper since she was 2 weeks old...and thankfully this has not manifested itself into nightmares, or insomnia.
We just want for her to be able to adjust to this change in her life, allow my wife to have some alone time to do the things she's had to put off for the past 6 years, and to help our child understand just how much fun school can be.
Sorry for the length of this post...we hope you understand our concern
It really sounds like she is being traumatized by the situation. Can you fnd another school for her to go to that won't make her go all day? Or at least could your wife go to class with her until she adjusts? I'm sorry to say this, but forcing her to go isn't gonna work, maybe something is happening at th school that really s bad. I'd take what she says to heart, poor thing
Hi, oh, do I feel your pain. It's hard enough on a stay at home mom who has given so much of her time and herself to care for their child to "let go" and send them off to school but to then see their child struggle like this is very difficult. And you are in a tough spot. Half day kindergarten would have been a better option for her (and in my opinion, most 5 and 6 year olds) but that doesn't sound like that is an option. (unless you investigate a private school that offers this. The catholic schools and such have a half day option in our area----- she is so bright that I don't think half day would hurt her at all academically.)
I think I would keep open communication with the teacher and couselor. The teacher should know that someone was teasing and she can maybe address the class in a general way without mentioning your daughter that teasing isn't acceptable with our friends. The teacher may need to help her with some social interaction. If there is another student that the teacher identifies that she could pair up with your daughter for an activity----- this would be helpful. Making a good friend in class can help tremendously. Sometimes sitting a child like your daughter close to the teacher will be beneficial and the teacher could give her some special jobs to make her feel a little special. You worry about confidence and self esteem when a child struggles.
Her anxiety does seem to be taking its toll. This is something to talk to her pediatrician about. Anxiety is a life long situation usually and she will need ways of coping with it. Not to scare you!!! Many many people suffer anxiety and it doesn't significantly impede their lives. But as she is making herself sick with this, it is something to think about in terms of getting her some professional help with this.
Staying completely posative about school no matter how much you want to just cry with her is important. Tell her a story of a time you were anxious or a story of how you were nervous in school too and how it all turned out okay. There is a book at the library that is about a little mouse that is a worrier. Try getting some books about worry at the library.
Get her involved in something extracurricular. Soccer is an easy sport for girls at that age. Or if she likes dance, art, etc. Encourage her pursuit of these things as they will help her get more comfortable in her own skin and create friends for her.
Lastly, as a teacher----- you know that they will probably suggest evaluating her for delays, mental health ect. (they do this regardless for ALL kids in our district). I would be open to it. Not because there is something major wrong but this is the avenue to get services for her that will help for her school day.
My son just started kindergarten himself. Things are going alright for him but we had a year like you are having now when he was in preschool. My very intelligent, fun and beautiful boy turned out to have a nervous system delay. We addressed it and now he is doing great and loving kindergarten. Your daughter will probably get over this rough patch and you just have to help her along. Be empathetic but posative about school and create a safe haven at home. It's hard but worth it in the end. Lots of luck to you.
I totally agree with specialmom on what she said about the whole school thing! I also believe that your pediatrician should be able to help you out in this situation. I believe putting her into some extra curricular activities will help to relieve the anxiety eventually when you find something she like to do such as dance or gymnastics, etc. This will also hopefully help her to become the social butterfly she needs to become. She needs to have friends to develop socially, mentally, emotionally. etc. When this happens, things should change for the better. I went through something like this with my niece. She was very nervous to go to school until she made friends and got to know people. It is very difficult but things will eventually happen for the better, it will just take time and effort. Get the school involved as they can help make the transition easier. Good luck.
I'm so sorry your daughter has to go through all this. Obviously there is something that she isn't telling you. I hate to tell you this but she may need some psychiatric help.
Has she talked to a therapist? Not the school one, but a special one all of her own. That way she can feel safe talking to the therapist about what happened.
Maybe she would do well with being home schooled or going to a different school. When I was in kindergarten 19-20 years ago we only had half day and I went to public school.
Making her go to school when there is a problem isn't going to help anyone. Another thing you could try is giving her a reward for going to school. Try taking her out for a treat when she gets home from school at the end of the week, or buy her a toy?
You have received some good advice re anxiety. Do note though that anxiety is not caused frrom life experiences but is an inherited trait donated at conception (although life situations may exacerbate the issue, they do not cause it). Our child suffers from severe anxiety so I know how difficult it can be at home and other social environments.
A couple of points - (1) homeschooling only postpones the child's fears and is not advisable for children with anxiety (it's sad but the only way to learning how to manage one's fears is working through them) and (2) therapy for children with anxiety is not "talk" therapy but interactive as play or art so getting a counsellor or speech therapist or similar professional is not going to help. The only thing that helps children with anxiety is to "lessen the anxiety" and that is the "million dollar question" as each child requires different intervention/therapies, etc. For us, I went to the school and volunteered as much as possible (this helped our child to see school was a safe place) and we also did a lot of play dates with children from our child's class. In addition, we oversocialized - our child was in many, many activities, we went to the parks often, church activiities, shopping and even McDonald's can offer social interactions.
You might find help on the internet by googling "school refusal" (because that is what you are dealing with) as well as other similar words/phrases as "separation anxiety and school" or "behaviors of anxiety in children", etc. If it is any consolation, your daughter's anxiety is not nearly as severe as our child but it might be wise to seek the counsel of your doctor - more for ideas re intervention and/or therapy. By the way, the parents do the intervention and therapy - these professionals teach us what to do and how to do it. Best of luck and rest assured your daughter will get better ....
Ah, the old nature versus nurture argument. You can't definitively say that anxiety is only caused by genetics. That's silly because then you are saying there is no such thing as PTSD or other disorders that are caused by traumatic situations. People are not prone to those because they were born that way, but are traumatized merely because it was a bad situation. Victims of abuse are also examples of people who suffer from anxiety/depression. I think what teddybears4ever2 is saying is that something may have happened at the school that she won't talk about. Who knows what it is, but it sounds bad. A professional therapist can help get to the bottom of the issue. IF it is merely caused by genetics and not the situation, he/she can help her get past that; but if it isn't it's even more important to figure out the reason why. Children don't act out like that for no reason, it's something that should be taken very seriously.
Scubadave: Has it gotten any better/worse? I'm sorry you are dealing with this and I hope you get to the bottom of it soon.
Do note though that anxiety is not caused frrom life experiences -- my words
Actually, I should have footnoted this sentence; it was copied it from Dr. Kennedy who is the expert doctor on the child behavior forum on this site. He was not talking about PTSD and neither was I. I believe he is correct.
Children don't act out like that for no reason -- your words
I agree but what many people do not understand is that children suffering from anxiety (and not anxiousness or nervousness) do not know why they are "scared". They just are. Research has shown that the amygdala in the brain overreacts to certain stimuli and thus the "fear" is out of proportion to the situation. And you are wrong - research HAS proven that "nature" not nurture is the reason for anxiety disorders. Now anxiety issues - that is another topic.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to educate others on this site.
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