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separation anxiety, I just want my happy boy back. Advice please.

(10 Posts)
farewellfigure Wed 26-Sep-12 10:28:55


My DS has been at school for 3 weeks now and seems to be really enjoying it and is getting on really well. However he is really sad when I leave him, and sometimes cries. The teacher says he gets over it really quickly. He was always fine when we left him at preschool and is perfectly happy going with our childminder or relatives.

Also he used to almost put himself to bed. Bedtime routine was story, tuck in, cuddle, lights out, sleep and he never wavered or had a wobble. Now he says he doesn't want us to leave the room and has been sobbing himself to sleep. He insists on having the main light on and I let him as I think eventually he may grow out of that. It's totally heartbreaking for everyone. I feel terrible about it but I won't stay in the room until he falls asleep. I know that makes me sound horrible. Some nights I can calm him down enough for him to fall asleep without crying, but he always says he doesn't want me to leave and I have to promise to go back to check he's OK 'after my shower, after tea' whatever. Obviously he's asleep when I go back in. I'm also feeling guilty that he's an only child so he doesn't have a sibling to share his room. He mostly stops crying and falls asleep after 10 minutes.

It's just so sad when he used to be such a happy boy who was perfectly happy falling asleep by himself in the dark even when he was tiny. I know school is a major change and can understand what he's going through but how can I make it better? I spoke to his teacher who is going to talk to him today and we may go and see the home/link councillor. I wondered whether any of you had any ideas. Oh, I've put photos of us in his room and just printed off a sticker chart, but I don't think it'll work.

Any advice would be welcome as we're all so sad about it.

TheProvincialLady Wed 26-Sep-12 10:35:14

I would turn the main light off, let him have a reading light or nightlight on until he is asleep, and promise to go in every 3/5 minutes until he is asleep (and maybe lie a bit and say you will go in when he is asleep too). My son went through this with sleep - not connected with starting school - and this completely reassured him and he stopped needing it within a week or so. I think the way forward is to give him plenty of time and reassurance, both in the daylight hours and when he is going to bed. It is a big change for him and lots of children experience bed wetting, anxiety, sleep problems etc at first. He will get over it much more quickly if you respond to his need rather than trying to be firm and make him get over it before he is really ready.

If you do go in while he drops asleep, make sure he understands that you will just go in and say goodnight but there will be no talking or asking for things etc.

aldiwhore Wed 26-Sep-12 10:38:04

3 weeks isn't long. I suspect its very common to have this anxiety, if the teacher is aware and you talk to your child and soothe him, support him and encourage him then hopefully this won't last too long.

Its a horrible situation though. My friend's DS was the same, completely harrowing for you I should think! Give it time, patience and support, and re the light on issue, I would install a dimmer switch so its not brilliantly bright but still light enough. Good luck and I hope he settles soon.

FreudiansGoldSlipper Wed 26-Sep-12 10:40:04

Ds is going through a similar thing. It's his second week at school he has been fine until the last 3 days. He keeps saying that he wants to stay with me forever too. He is fine when I pick him up and really enjoys school it's only when the bell goes he gets upset. I have been really lucky he has never cried at nursery or when he is with family.

For ds I think he is finding the 5 days difficult he went to nursery for 3 days and it's tiring for him even though it is shorter hours it's more stimulating.

I feel he will grow out of it, the school have made a little sticker chart for him a few children are suddenly going through the same thing I guess the novelty has worn off a little and they are now aware this is ongoing

And ds wants to sleep in my bed too I have said it is ok to come in if he wakes up it he night thankfully he has not but it makes bedtime a little less stressful

MimiSam Wed 26-Sep-12 10:53:12

My DD is aged 5 and half and has just gone into Y1. Similar behaviour started for her during school holidays, so I don't think it is related to school. Prior to this, she has slept through the night since she was 7 weeks old (I know!!) and always slept in the dark. Now, it is lights on, can't get to sleep by herself either at bedtime or when she wakes during the night (always once, often twice...) It's a shock to the system and upsetting for all of us - she also seems less confident to be by herself during the day too...she can't say if anything specific has frightened her. I wonder if separation anxiety is common at this age?

farewellfigure Wed 26-Sep-12 11:01:24

I think in my head, the problem has got worse because the headmistress told us (with the kindest of intention) that if we don't sort it out soon, the fact that he cries could make him scared of going to school and scared of bed, as he'll start to remember that he always cries. At the moment he is happy to get ready for school and bed, and only gets sad at the point of me leaving. The thought of him getting too upset to do either is too awful to bear.

Thank you for your posts. It's just good to share! I like the idea of the dimmer switch. I used to go in and switch the light off after about an hour, but it would invariably wake him up and the whole thing would start again.

At the moment he doesn't wake in the night once he's gone off. I feel for you MiniSam. It's more of a shock when it's such a sudden change sad

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 26-Sep-12 22:23:26

Hi there

We've moved this one to Behaviour/Development as it's not really an AIBU question.

Best of luck to the OP and we hope your DS feels better soon.

getrealandgetalife Wed 26-Sep-12 22:32:04

my dd is now 8. she went through a smilar clingy phase and we got through it..... using a cup of tea.

I would put her to bed following the same routine as before it all started, and then say.. i need a cup of tea, i'll come back when ive drunk it.

then i'd go for a cuppa. (but keep her light on)
I would of course go back and see her, but I would just pop my head round the door so that she could see me check on her... I'd then say, I havent finished my cuppa, i'll be back!

and we kept this up all night, till i went to bed or she fell asleep. In the morning i'd say... what happened to you? I came back when id finished my tea and you were sleeping. I had to tuck you in and turn the light out.

now, she knew it was true that i checked on her because she saw me checking on her and the light was out when she woke up so someone must have turned it out.

this did work for us, but one night she said to me...
mummy it isnt fair that you get to share with daddy, becuase you are a grown up and so is daddy. I'm only a little one, why do i have to sleep alone?

eermm.... I just laughed and said.... You are so lucky I've never had my own bed ( i have 4 sisters that i shared with) i was at home with your aunties then I HAD to share with daddy. I wish i had my own bed!

farewellfigure Thu 27-Sep-12 12:02:23

Thanks getreal. That's a really good idea.

Actually I spoke to a professional from youngminds on the phone this morning. Last night's bedtime was so dreadful that we've decided we need help. Drop off at school has got progressively worse as well. I'm spending every evening in tears myself because it's so heartbreaking.

Anyway, we are relaxing (throwing out) every bedtime rule we ever had. I'm staying in the room until he drops off, light on, door open. When he's been asleep for a while I'll go back and close the door (have to because of cats) and dim the light. Please wish me luck as I can't bear him screaming himself to sleep again. I think my biggest difficulty is going to be stopping him from talking to me if I'm in the room. He just wants to talk and talk. This backs up something the youngminds lady said which was although his body is tired, his mind is whirring because of everything going on at school. Basically he can't switch off and go to sleep and he's imagining all sorts of stuff that can happen when I leave the room. Hopefully with me in the room he'll be able to settle and drop off.

Wish me luck.

getrealandgetalife Thu 27-Sep-12 13:34:47

good luck. just remember that for all his crying and carrying on.... YOU are the person he cries for because you make him feel safest in the whole world. YOU can make his world right, and that is a lot of responsibility.

he knows you love him.

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