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Separation anxiety at school

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  • Separation anxiety at school

    Hi - first a quick introduction as I'm new here. I have 3 children aged 3, 5 (biological) and 11 (adopted), and work full time (no lectures on that please!). I did quite a lot of the attachment type stuff when they were babies, but feel it has kind of slipped as they have grown older. I have recently read Unconditional Parenting by Kohn, and have been inspired to try and improve my relationships with my children and be less controlling!

    Anyway, my current problem is with my 5yo. He really hates it when I leave him at school. It is heartbreaking to have to walk away whilst he is sobbing and clinging to me, but the longer I stay and the more I try to explain and ease the transistion, the worse it gets. I cannot calm him down and always end up having to leave him in tears in the playground. He is generally fine in the mornings (dressing. breakfast etc)until the actual point when I leave him.

    I have a similar problem with him at bedtime. We have a lovely time until I finish the last story. Then he starts calling me names, crying about everything that didn't go his way all day and will not accept any comfort, even being physically agressive to me. This happens even if I try and stay with him and cuddle him (ie not becuase I am actually leaving - although it gets worse when I do try and leave).

    My husband thinks I should just put him in bed and walk away. I feel that there is an underlying issue there about separation from me, and the worst thing I could do is withdraw my affection. At the same time I am not willing to sit there indefinitely to be physically and verbally abused.

    I should add that the rest of the time he is generally very well behaved, affectionate and self-motivated. Although he does struggle with transitions generally, these can generally be managed by giving him sufficient warning and control over variables (where do you want to put that toy to keep it safe until we get back? etc).

    Sorry to go on so, especially in my first post, but I would really appreciate any suggestions on how to deal with this that don't involve leaving him screaming in the playground/bed!


    Any suggestions gratefully received.

  • #2
    My 5 yr old have some similar issues and I think it is because he longs for more connection with me and my husband. It has been a busy start of the school year after a nice summer of togetherness and then we had a week or two of illnesses so I understand how my son could be out of sorts.

    My son is alright with school but he is only going to pre-school 5 days a week. He was VERY upset when we started the carpool where our freind and his daughter picked him up but luckily did better the next day. Is your child in full day Kindergarden? Does he talk about his teacher/other kids at school? Has he mentioned any secondary attachments? If he has no connection with anyone at school and at the same time feels like his relationship with you is lost ,I can see how he would feel extra upset.

    No lectures on working...we all know that you can AP in a lot of situations!

    I don't think you should abandon (leave in bed to cry) him more, I think you should show him that he is worth that extra attention when you are able to give it to him. Maybe have a 'date' with him, show him that he is still special and let him talk to you more. He sounds like he has a lot to say and just wants someone loving to listen to him. If he can read a little, send him notes to school reminding him that you love him and he is important in the family. Others will suggest you remove him from the school etc. While that may not be an option for you, at least talk to his teacher about what is going on there. He might be genuinely scared about something.

    Let us know how things go.


    • #3
      Thankyou so much for your reply. He is generally fine at school, has several friends and so on. I do not think he really has an attachment to an adult there though. Especially now since he has just moved up classes so has a new teacher. He tends to be very quiet and keeps to himself a lot at school, although he is not like this at home. His birthday is August, so he is very young for the year and this is his second year of full time school. I am very happy with the school and do not think there are any genuine issues there. I spoke to his teacher about it several times last year and she assured me that he was always fine by the time he got into the classroom. I was hoping it would resolve itself as he got older this year, but after a first week when he was fine (novelty value I guess) we are right back to where we were.

      I haven't really been able to find a pattern for when it happens and when it doesn't. I think it may be routine based. It seems to be worse if I agree to go into the school building with him for any reason. If I have a good reason for dropping him off at the gate (because we're late / its raining etc), or better, he happens to meet a friend to go into the playground with, then he seems to be distracted enough to avert the meltdown. But once it starts there is no stopping it, no matter how many friends come and ask him to play with them.

      A note is a really good idea. He does read well. Maybe I could give him one to keep in his pocket. I was thinking of maybe giving him a small toy/object to keep in his pocket and remind him of me when he is feeling sad.

      With the bedtimes I know I need to give him the space to let things out and to accept his feelings, but I also somehow need to make clear that I can not allow him to hurt me. Unfortunately the only thing I feel able to say to prevent this is to threaten to leave him "you will have to go in your own bed if you keep being mean to me" "I will only stay with you if you stop being mean" etc. Which feels so wrong, but I really can't think of an alternative. He does normally manage to calm down after I threaten to leave him several times (sometimes I have to follow through and only return when he promises to be nice) and we usually end the evening in a pleasant way, but I am really not happy with using the threats in this way. I know it is not really directed at me, but he just can't seem to be able to help himself from doing this and I feel it is really damaging our relationship.

      Thanks again!


      • #4
        He does sound like he has some anger going on (my son too!). I found thease books helpful as both refer to 'emotional coaching' ideas which I think both of our sons could benifit from.
        Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids:[/COLOR]
        the second one is NVC (non-violent communication) based too, do you know about that?

        You certainly cannot permit your child to hurt you...that is where NVC can come in to your lauguage.


        • #5
          Just a quick update...

          Last night he chose a Daddy bedtime, which means a story and then going straight to bed. No cuddles and no staying with him. No problem at all...

          This morning I wrote him a little note saying "Mummy loves George" with lots of kisses and put it in his shirt pocket. I told him that the note had magic mummy kisses on it and if he was feeling a bit sad it would give him an extra kiss from mummy. Of course he told me that mummy kisses weren't really magic (only daddy kisses are magic!) but he went off far more happily anyway. Who knows - but at least we had no tears!

          Thanks again for the suggestion. The little one asked for a note too for his pocket too, and then proceeded to write one for me to take to work to remind me of him, which was really sweet - so a good result all round! Great suggestion!


          • #6
            That is good...hopefully he was just having a tough patch. My son also picks daddy for certain times like yours!


            • #7
              Most kids are like this. My kid cries when I say goodbye so what I do every time I go out is that I don't say goodbye and make sure that she is with my mom or nanny so she is distracted while I go out. Sometimes when she is busy playing that's time I leave her. I know it's hard to leave our kids alone at school but it is a phase they have to go through on their own. During bed time I patiently wait until my kid is asleep, I usually show that I'm sleeping and will not react when she tries and play with me and eventually she falls asleep. Hope every thing will go well.


              • #8
                Most of kids do this kind of stuff specially at the age of 4-5 this is because of many reasons like separation anxiety ,kids may feel ignored or neglected at these points and .So parents need to give special attention to them,but it certainly it depends on parents that how they will handle this matter. Parents should always make kids let them familiar about outside world before starting them at school.Play way schools can work better in these conditions.