Parenting K-6 Kids/child separation anxiety
QUESTION: hello. my question is regarding our 4th grade daughter. she was in public school for k and grade 1. she had an older sister in elementary with her. she had some issues with separation anxiety and longing for home even after a year and a half in school she would typically touch base with her sister and return to class.
we began attending an online charter academy after the 1st grade for her and her sister(when our older was in 4th grade.)She protested leaving public school and didnt adjust to the new setting for awhile. we have recently re-enrolled them in traditional school. my youngest is now a 4th grader. We have been back to school for 5 days and she has cried at school each day. the teacher is very understanding, but we were wondering if this is something that will get better over time, or should we try to modify the behavior? She is very in touch with why she feels this way, but we dont want her to be sad in school, and honestly, if I have to get her therapy to stay in school, i'd be more inclined just to bring her back home and go to online school. any help or insight would be appreciated.
ANSWER: Hi Scott,
Separation anxiety isn't uncommon in early elementary school and often dissipates with time. However, by bringing her home, she hasn't developed the skills to cope, which means it's not surprising that she's struggling again in 4th grade.
I'm not sure why you're resistant to counseling, as bringing her home again will not solve the problem in terms of helping her learn to deal with social anxiety. Eventually she'll be going out into the world and will need the skills to cope. With that said, she may not need therapy. Perhaps the school has a counselor who does small groups or would be willing to meet with her, maybe even check in with her for a few minutes a day as your daughter did with the older sister when she was younger.
I think you need to get a better handle on the anxiety as well. For example, does she only show this anxiety at school or does she have difficult in other social settings such as friend's homes or parties? What is she saying about how she feels (afraid? kids don't like her? School is hard?). Sometimes school anxiety goes away on it's own, but if she truly has a social anxiety, it many mean some sort of intervention to help her learn how to cope.
Here is an article you can read on school anxiety that might help you determine the best course of action. http://www.healthboards.com/healthcenter/anxiety/preschoolers-and-social-anxiety
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for the advice. I think my aversion to therapy was out of frustration. I have some personal differences with the public school setting. Its isnt so much her going away to a school, I just dont always agree with the public school decision.
What I have learned over the past few days is that I need to continue to be a positive influence on her schooling rather than letting her hear about all the reasons I didnt care for the school. We gave her some different tools, such as breathing away the butterflies, allowing her to take an object from home, and using positive affirmation when she feels the emotion coming on such as "i dont have to cry" (there are other ways to deal with this.)and while I do listen to what she has to say, I dont let her feed into it by having long drawn out discussions. She has expressed that she misses us, referred to my recently passed mother, etc. Her opinion of school is a good one. She is positive about it. She identified herself that it is typically in the morning that she feels this way. She has progressed very well over the course of this week. Each day, she reports how many times she got weepy. I havent heard from the teacher since tuesday, so im imagining that she is seeing improvement as well. As for other settings, she's actually our outgoing child. She stays at friends, is very involved with soccer, etc. My wife works in the early evenings, so she again has a little less time with mom, which was one of our reasons for teaching her from home. I think she is improving. Im very proud of her progress. Thank you for the prompt reply.
You're right in that parents' attitudes can play a part in how children experience school. And you've come up with great strategies for helping your daughter. These tools will help her in other areas when she feels overwhelmed as well.
I'm glad to hear she's making improvements!
Leslie Truex, MSW