What do I do with my 5 year old who hates school and spends most of his time telling me this?

(28 Posts)

Feel so clueless. DS is nearly 6 and in year one. He got on ok in reception, perhaps in part due to the wonderful teaching staff, but seems so unhappy now he is in year one. I know it must be hard for lots of children to make the transition from the play based learning...but I just feel at a loss of what to do about it.

Every day his first words are that he doesn't want to go to school today. I have tried to ignore it a bit (sort of, being light hearted rather than completely disregarding him), but he has become more upset - promise of reward if he goes in without a fuss has had no impact - I sat down with him over the weekend and talked about it but have come away with no real insight - he just hates school and doesn't want to go. He wants to stay at home with me all day. He wants me to be his teacher. How do I know how seriously to take him? He didn't seem to miss school or friends over summer, unlike some of my friends children who apparently couldn't wait to go back.

He enjoys a lunchtime club he attends and he likes playing with his friends, but that's about it.

His teacher is so far dismissive - I hope she's right and it's a phase that passes but if not...then what? How long do i wait for him to get into it?

It seems to be occupying a lot of him time and energy and he seems unhappy...I just don't know how to handle it or make it better.

nobutreally Wed 02-Oct-13 09:26:08

(PS And agree that it's interesting that he's fine being left places with your dh - which suggests that actually it's not something about the activity that is a problem - it really is just that process of leaving you.

A random thought - a friend who had this issue tried getting her ds to walk in with another adult (the child's best friend's mum) - so there wasn't that person to cling to at the door, and of course handing over to the other mum was easier, because walking into school with x was a treat. Worth considering?

nobutreally Wed 02-Oct-13 09:23:04

My two are 7 & 9 now, but just to say a LOT of ds's & dd's mates had huge wobbles going into Y1 - even though the school said it was trying to make the transition gentle, there seems to be a huge leap from R to Y1. Especially for those who aren't really ready to spend more time in sitting still, directed tasks, it suddenly feels like hard work, and no control. And I think a lot of them suddenly focused on what they couldn't do - iyswim - suddenly being able to write things down (neatly) was important. And a lot (esp of the boys!) felt they just weren't 'good enough'. There were lots of tears & school hating for a while in both classes.

It sounds like maybe your ds has also got a teacher who he bonds with less - which is just bad luck, but is going to make that process harder for a while.

All of which says to me that giving it a bit of time, is sensible - and the idea of focusing on good things AT school is a really good one (I also went through a stage of asking them to tell me one thing they were proud of at school - help focus on their successes?)

When dd had issues in Y1, I had a meeting where I sat down with her both her R and Y1 teachers - I felt that her R teacher had a much better grasp of her as an individual - having taught her for a whole year, and frankly also being a much better/more experienced teacher. If your teacher is being a bit dismissive, it might be something to suggest? (Is there any way you can casually see the old teacher and mention he's having issues/ask for her advice?)

I think it's interesting that he's ok being left places by your DH but not you. Both of mine were similar. DS is now 9 and is fine with going to things. DD is almost 6 and still struggles a bit going into new situations. The thing I learnt with DS was to accept he was going to cling to me, to not get upset about it, and to try to be relatively no-nonsense at the handover iyswim. We did discuss things, check there was no bullying etc and I realised he just needed to have me being brave in order to help him be strong.

Having said that it may be that HE is right for your child but it sounds like he just loves you do much he wants to be with you !

ArabellaBeaumaris Wed 02-Oct-13 09:06:40

My Y1 dd is similar - she enjoyed Reception after a few weeks settling in but she is distressed by having to go to school again. She says what she liked in R was 'being creative' (her words!) & they don't have time to do that now, they aren't allowed to play & the only moving you can do is to put your hand up. She was 5 just before the holidays so on the younger end but did fine academically in R. It's just really really rubbish feeling that you have to force your child to do this process when it feels like it might be damaging them... No advice from me then really, except that we have arranged - a prior standing arrangement not as a result if this - for DD to flexi school one day a week when she will go to a wood school, am hoping that will help somehow (although am aware the change to the routine might make it worse).

Ferguson Tue 01-Oct-13 23:05:57

Children can be worried or afraid of school for many reasons, and very often can't explain why, and parents quite probably won't find the cause of the problem, (not until the child is grown up, and can explain!)

In Yr1 there are going to be many activities besides Literacy and Numeracy: PE & games; history and geography (but taught very simply, probably in terms of 'families' and people's different ages, the local area, etc), arts and crafts, painting; plants, animals and 'mini-beasts'; speaking & listening; often 'show & tell'; music, dance, drama; and computer activities. Any one of these subjects could upset a child who hadn't experienced it before, and it might take a while for them to get used to it.

And then the sensitive or smaller child may find the boisterous behaviour of others in a class quite frightening; similarly playtimes, and the dining hall, which is invariably noisy.

Just be patient, ask the teacher or TA if they have any 'clues', but I am sure these situations won't last TOO long.

soorploom Tue 01-Oct-13 21:39:04

my ds had the collywobbles going into yr1
he managed to be brave enough to go in without crying but just about every minute he wasn't in school was spent having cuddles with me.
very hot, very sweaty and very difficult to do anything else with a small boy clasped around your neck.
a few weeks later and he is fine.
never got to the bottom of it so I assume he just needed reassurance, lots of it.
hardly has time to give me a wave now

Aayanmum have you spoken to his teacher? sad poor him and poor you. When my son had a wobble last year the teaching staff were very kind and gentle with him and it was a blip that passed. He struggled with lunch too so his teacher would sit with him for 5 minutes till he was settled. I'd talk to them as your first action.

aayanmum Mon 30-Sep-13 18:01:37

my son has just started reception class. he start crying every morning, doesnt eat his lunch. whole day he is upset and cranky. he has fear of school. i dont know what should i do and how to handle this situation. plz suggest!!!

BoffinMum Mon 30-Sep-13 16:38:54

Give him a copy of Ilich's Deschooling Society and tell him when he can read all that he can leave wink

Seriously, school is hard. All you can do is encourage them to keep on trucking.

He's come home in good spirits today and thank you shoe whore as I actually got an answer. Apparently they did some drawings of the school building today which he enjoyed. And he got a sticker for some maths work (what, will remain a mystery no doubt).

I'm going to try and be casual now and not fret that tomorrow will be the same. He's playing dinosaurs with his sister, I'm going to see if i can join in and not show that it's my idea of hell wink

ShoeWhore Mon 30-Sep-13 14:38:36

With the best thing/worst thing I find it helps to ask them what was the best thing you did in class today? etc. Otherwise I always get best thing=playtime, worst thing=writing (without fail!)

Another technique I find helpful with ds3 is to put my hands out and say if (wiggle left hand) this is rubbish and (wiggle right hand) this is brilliant, how was x today?

HumphreyCobbler Mon 30-Sep-13 14:09:34

sorry, cross post

at least you are open to the idea of HE if it becomes necessary. You have a potential solution if the situation doesn't improve.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 30-Sep-13 14:07:56

Oh, it sounds like you are more than available enough. Don't assume it is something that you are doing wrong, you are caring about this problem but I would be wary beating yourself up about it too much. Our children will encounter stuff they don't like in life and up to a certain point, it is a valuable learning experience to manage to deal with it.

I know this is easier said than done...

Yes, I'm re-reading that too (first read when DS was a baby so can't say I took any of it in) - I tried the technique of problem solving together, but he lost interest and got stuck on his solutions - which were to only go to school until lunchtime, and only go to school after lunch. I will press on with reading as definitely finding it helpful in thinking about my approach and mostly pausing before I react.

We do best and worst things most days and they are always the same. Worst thing? Leaving you mummy. Best thing? Coming home.

I feel almost sure that with him he'll settle. And then I panic about him not. I know I have to give it time, this is only the fourth week. Puzzling things aren't they, children. Wish I could know, that's all. Thanks for listening, it helps to get it down.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 30-Sep-13 14:02:17

Have you looked at how to talk so kids will listen? Might be worth a go for ideas about communication tools.

I found ds responded really well to my stories about when I didn't like going to school etc. Also what is the best and worst thing that happened today, with everyone having a go rather than just ds?

I agree that school doesn't suit everyone, but I also agree that you are not at that point yet.

X-post, agree completely and I don't want to get too ahead of myself. I think it's a brilliant school and I love being part of it and the community feel it brings. I enjoy the school run, have friends I chat to, I like being involved and part of something. I'd really miss it and I think DS would too, although he might not think so right now.

But I also think that school doesn't suit every child and wonder if mine is one of them. DD skips into preschool without so much as a glance up at me. She can't get away from me quick enough. How different they are.

That's what I need Humphrey, a way to communicate with him that he will respond to. I downloaded Playful Parenting a few nights ago and am ploughing through it.

I wonder if I'm to blame. We had a lovely summer and life has felt a bit rushed since term started. I probably say 'maybe' or 'later' too much. Weekends are generally good I feel, DP and I value them as family time (cringe phrase, sorry. Mornings are a whirlwind and he'll ask me to read and I just cannot between getting chores done and getting three of us ready on time. I try and do things after school even if just the park but there comes a point when I sort of expect them to entertain themselves for an hour while I do dinner and any paperwork etc though I will ration a bit of iPad use between them in this time. I'm not locking myself in a room or anything but I can bet that DS wants me to be more available, more of the time.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 30-Sep-13 13:49:15

I am a teacher but very open to the idea of HE (I think it is obvious that school is not the best place for every child), but it could be something that could be resolved rather than going straight for the most radical solutions.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 30-Sep-13 13:47:04

My ds went through a mild version of this in year 1.

I wonder if you could try again to get him to explain his feelings? Perhaps he could draw a picture? Being able to understand his feelings and reassure him he is being heard may help him to process them and find a way to move on?

Thanks for the replies.

When I said his teacher was dismissive, I think she thinks its just a phase and giving him attention will prolong it. I went in one day last week after school as that morning DS had clung to my legs and had to be taken off me really - she said he's okay once I've gone and to keep doing what I'm doing - which is taking him to the door (other parents do not) and pass him to her/the TA. Which is fine until they're nowhere to be seen and he's wrapped around my legs again.

I do wonder if there is something he's not telling me, but not because he's done anything to make me think it, IYSWIM, I am just well aware that even the most in-tune parent (not sure that's me btw) will miss things and I shouldn't feel too confident, but that said there really isn't anything to make me think there is. We have seen his usual set of friends in the park after school and from what I gather all seems well, he has a couple of party invites etc. I've tried being with him and not leading any conversation to see if he will talk but he hasn't so far.

He was happy in YR, yes, but did have a wobble at the beginning though it didn't seem so heartfelt as this, and the handling was v different - lovely TA would cuddle him etc, this year the staff aren't so motherly, bit no-nonsense sit down and get on with it.

Not sure about volunteering as I wonder if he'd be just the same when I did eventually leave? And I have my two year old at home as well, she's just started preschool, during which time I have some other volunteering committments.

Actually (sorry this one's getting long) he is like it at Beavers too though wondered if it was because he's new. He won't let me leave him there, he's just had his fourth week of going. This week is an activity and I've tried to introduce the idea of me leaving next week when they're back in the hall. He goes with a school mate but still hates the idea.

And he's just started swimming lessons - these are with his school swimming teacher - DP took him and he was fine; I took him and he refused to get in the pool because he 'wants me' (I was not going to leave and he knew this) - lots of crying etc. So it's a bit chicken and egg, is he anxious in general or anxious in these other situations because of school?

Support to home ed would be slow growing I think. DP and I discussed it at the weekend and thinks that it should absolutely be a last resort (but how do you know when you're there?) - my mum thinks it's a terrible idea. My fears are all about, what if it was awful/he changed his mind/it was forever/he resented me in the future etc etc etc.

cake if you read this far!

moldingsunbeams Mon 30-Sep-13 12:58:05

I think the transition from yr R to one is very hard, much less play, more sit down work. I would check there's no friendship issues too.

Some kids just find school hard, we have tears and this every morning in year 6 sad

ProfYaffle Mon 30-Sep-13 12:36:57

My dd2 has just started Yr2, she found the transition from Reception to Yr 1 very hard as well. It was friendship issues for her, her best friend from reception left and didn't start Yr1 so it felt like starting again. It took 2 terms but she did eventually find another best friend and is now quite happy.

Her new best friend had similar problems at the start of Yr1 and her Mum tackled it by volunteering in the classroom so she could be with her dd. I wouldn't have taken that approach but it seemed to work for them. Both dc are now settled.

PoppyWearer Mon 30-Sep-13 12:35:21

If it's any consolation, lots of the children at our school going from Reception to Year One seemed to be in tears this year, and it continued for the first few weeks. Now we are down to the last one or two clinging to their parents every morning.

In a couple of cases it was definitely due to other children teasing etc, so it's worth exploring that. In other cases, they just don't like going from lots of play to proper learning for the first time.

Do you know any other parents? Could they ask their DCs if they know what is bothering your DS? Sometimes other children are prepared to say what your own DC can't or won't!

Spidermama Mon 30-Sep-13 12:32:16

My dd was like this. She hated school. She still does (she's 15) but she's doing very well. I considered home educating and the more I looked into and met those doing it the more impressed I was. However DH wasn't.

So she's now in her GCSE years and doing very well academically but it has taken its toll on her emotional and mental health. I feel she's put up barriers and found coping mechanisms which will have to be unpicked again once she's left school in order to achieve better mental health.

It makes me sad. Some kids really find the school environment very alien and hard.

ShoeWhore Mon 30-Sep-13 12:28:39

So if I have understood correctly, he was happy in reception but less so now he's in Year 1?

Do you think he might be having an issue with another child(ren)? We had this with ds a couple of years ago but he didn't tell me straightaway, he started asking me questions about whether you could be taught at home and just see your friends after school. It took ages to tease it out of him. A girl in his class was being really mean to him.

What have you said to his teacher so far? The comment about her being dismissive shocked me a little - whenever I have had to approach my dcs' teachers about them being unhappy they have been concerned and keen to help or at least keep an eye on the situation.

Hope you can get to the bottom of this soon, it's horrible seeing your child unhappy.

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