4 year old in existential crisis - related to starting school I think but seriously worried!(12 Posts)
My (I think v bright but very emotional) 4 year old DS started school this September. Immediately stopped sleeping and was wide awake often till about 11 with endless questions, would then roam the house at night, bed hoping and complaining that he was scared to be left alone. Hoped he would settle but he's started doing even odder things. He seems intent on destroying all evidence of his existence - he took all photos of himself out of frames and ripped them up, he then found a lock of his baby hair which i had kept and threw that away - this isn't normal is it?
Brief feedback from teachers is that he seems fine at school but I really think I need to probe this with them as he seems really disturbed. How should it discuss with the teacher without sounding like a loon?
That's really worrying, isn't it?
Was he used to going to nursery school or a childminder's?
Is he more clingy? Does he go into school without a problem?
He's always been a bit clingy but he went to is lovely supportive preschool very happily. I'd almost like to phone them up and ask their advice! He trots off to school without complaining and has his big brother in the class next door so I don't think he should feel too stressed by the experience. We are lucky that his nest friend form preschool is also in the same class and they seem to have remained close but have started to include other children which is ideal really. He also seems to be done fine with homework etc.
What has he said when you ask him why he's done it?
How does he feel about school ? What are the endless questions about ?
Does he know why he can't get to sleep ?
It sounds to me as though, possibly, this could be connected with him being told and feeling "grown up" and a "big boy" and that what he is getting rid of are reminders that he was a baby? Perhaps he is keen to be like his big brother and doesn't want people to remember he is the "baby" of the family.
Have you tried some meditation techniques with him to help him switch off at bedtime? The poor lad must be exhausted. So a lavender bath, boring story, relaxation mantra, darkness (with a night light if it helps him not feel alone), tell him you will be nearby but not in his room, maybe try audio books on very quietly while he drops off (quiet voices might be reassuring and calming). No getting dragged into answering questions and do rapid return if he gets up.
He's said he doesn't know why he's done it. The questions are about life the universe and everything often they are more his opinions on things. Very cute but he needs his sleep.
I was wondering about keeping him out of school on Friday or picking him up early. I know the school won't like that but they can't stop me until the term after he turns five I think.
I'm wondering if it's the gap between his intellectual age ( and curiosity ) and his reading age ?
So if an 8yo wants to know about the solar system or life after death he can read a book or use the internet. A 4yo can only ask questions.
Woudl he enjoy listening to audio books ? Woudl he like fiction or non fiction ?
Is it just his brain working overtime ? or do you think he's upset or distressed in any way ?
When you ask about what happens at school, what does he say ?
There are some great ideas here thank you Miss Tick and Kr1stina. I think audio books are a really good plan. He clearly has trouble turning his brain off after a day at school.
HOw much exercise does he get? Do you let him have a run around after school? This is what my two need after school even when they're tired. Kind of a release as they're mentally tired after school.
I agree with previous posters. I think stress and anxiety shows up in unexpected ways at this age and is hard to identify. DS also finds it hard to switch his thinking off at bedtime and the tiredness accumulates. We had some advice from a sleep specialist and most of the advice was around evening routine. After dinner he gets ready for bed (the arguing about teeth and pyjamas is out the way early). Then we do a calming activity together for about 30 mins, e.g. painting, play-doh, colouring. It helps if at least one adult is sitting calmly with him. Then 10 minutes reading with him in bed, lights down low, not dragged out. Now he's older he then gets another 10 minutes to read to himself, then lights out. Bedroom uncluttered at bedtime so it doesn't feel like there's unfinished business. Sleep advisor suggested keeping after school activities to a minimum at this age, and said by 5pm kids this age are done and best to be at home chilling out with parent(s). So a run around in the fresh air is fine, but advised us to scale back the likes of a martial arts class (some kids do these things and they're fine, we've had to accept that DS is different and get on with it). We were trying to fit more stuff in to exhaust him when in fact he was over tired and couldn't switch off.
Things gradually settled down for DS and continue to improve.
I have tried lots of different calming techniques with him but mostly he resisted. Your DS might be more biddable! If so there are books and CDs etc with suggestions.
Might be a phase, at peak stress when we had just moved 450 miles, new jobs for each parent, new school for DS, all belongings in storage and living in a short term rented flat, DS (then 6) spent a lot of time asking about death and saying he wished he hadn't been born because he would die one day. After a certain amount of talking it through I started to just change the subject and distract. It went away and hasn't been mentioned for a long time. There were issues at school as well and their gut feeling was that DS found it hard to cope with the change and it would settle down, which it has. Again, I see other kids going through huge change and coping fine, but that's life.
I don't know whether this is at all relevant, but one of my children was just the same at the age of four, with the endless questions and not sleeping, and she used to worry about odd things. She never tried to destroy evidence of herself as your son does, but it turned out she'd formed a bizarre idea that at some point she would stop getting older and instead grow younger and become a baby again! She worried that she would continue to get younger and younger until she ceased to exist. She was also preoccupied with religion: what if there was a God and she failed to worship him correctly and he sent her to hell? (We're atheists.) She tried being a Christian for a bit before deciding God was no more likely to be Christian than any other religion and so her chances of getting it right were slim no matter what she did.
Over the next few years she became less intense and started falling asleep and staying asleep more easily. She was home educated and had had no major life changes likely to have triggered that intense phase. I think it was just her personality and a stage she had to go through.
Now she is 17, fairly chilled and well adjusted. She's less worried than most teens.
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