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Six year old miserable about school - how worried should I be?

(21 Posts)
oblong Fri 11-Mar-05 09:45:29

My six year old daughter (I'll call her dd1a) is miserable going to school most days. She is a twin and her sister (dd1b) loves school but every morning now she's just so glum and it's heartbreaking. I've spoken to her teacher who says she's absolutely fine once there - plays well, has fun and is popular - but dd1 insists that no one will play with her (she's in a seperate class to her twin, who is not particularly sympathetic to dd1's woes).

She actually stayed in her room all day one day this week. She was refusing to go to school, so we said OK don't go but you have to stay in your room - no TV, no one to play etc. Thought that if she had a chance to get bored this might convince her that school isn't that bad but doesn't seem to have done the job, as she said yesterday morning she wanted to stay home again.

She goes to a small, really friendly school - teachers and kids are lovely - no bullying. She's a real tomboy and only wants to be friends with boys, and I suppose some of them may not want to be friends with a girl and she particularly complains about playground time and walking to the library, so I have assumed this is perhaps the root of the problem and that she's probably just finding her way socially. But this morning dh said we should think about seeing a child psychologist, which seems a bit drastic to me.

So all that's a rather long-winded way of saying - anyone else been through this - is it a phase or should we take it more seriously?

Ameriscot2005 Fri 11-Mar-05 09:51:09

I think it is pretty normal for young kids not to want to go to school, but they are usually fine once they are there.

My DD2 was really looking forward to going to school, and was really enthusiastic about the first few days. After that, it was a screaming match to get her there for the first couple of terms, and this all started up again at the start of her second year.

She is absolutely fine once there.

I have a zero-tolerance approach to her shenanigans.

shimmy21 Fri 11-Mar-05 09:58:58

Yes been there with ds2. He's 6 and from first week of reception he hasn't wanted to go to school. Every morning we have had fake illnesses, tears and tantrums. His teacher says he is fine and happy at school and is surprised he doesn't like it. The root cause of it all - playground politics. Who is friends with who, who can play and who can't etc. I think as a parent (and ex teacher myself) we underestimate how important the playground part of school is. In fact for them it's the only bit that matters. The good thing is that he now does have friends who want to play with him but I think emotionally he's just a bit young to handle the coooperation and give and take that is needed. He couldn't ever explain exactly what the problem was but we found out that he was eating lunch at a different time from his main 'gang' and was in a different group in class. Changing those things has made a massive difference to him.
Perhaps light at the end of the tunnel. Last week he was off school with a bug, got bored and actually admitted for the first time ever that school wasn't too bad. (Allelujah!!)

My theory - 5 and 6 yr olds are not all emotionally mature enough to cope with the unstructured free play of the playground. It's a skill that comes with time. (we'll see if it pans out that way!)

tallulah Fri 11-Mar-05 17:59:43

Not to worry you but just to illustrate the other end... my eldest went through a phase of refusing to go to school. I had to drag her in kicking & screaming. She wouldn't get dressed, wouldn't get out of the car etc. Most mornings for one particular term when she was 7 the Head had to meet me in the car park, or else I had to leave her in the car park & drive off (only round the corner where I could watch her but she couldn't see me).

This was a kid with a group of good friends, in a small school with a good atmosphere.

We had a lot of nastiness later over the 11+ when the Head used DDs stubbornness against her.. long story.. DD was a nightmare to live with at home. THEN she went to secondary school & overnight transformed into a proper little girl. No more tantrums, no more arguing and no more power struggles. I can only assume that she was desperately unhappy at primary. She never said so & I thought that her having lots of friends & being popular meant she was OK.

With that experience behind us I have been very careful with my younger children & moved my ds3 when he seemed to be going the same way (again, popular child).

This may be completely irrelevant to your situation but please do check it out if you have a chance. It isn't necessarily something that will just go away. HTH

vess Sat 12-Mar-05 08:34:23

Oblong, why can't she be in the same class as her twin sister? Would that really be that bad?
Maybe you can try and talk to her about what she doesn't like at school and give her some advice about difficult situations and ways to deal with things? Also, if there is a difficult situation there, the worst possible thing would be to just avoid it - things always happen at school playgrounds, you can't stop going to school because of that! If there is a difficult situation, she will have to resolve it either herself or with help, and will learn how to deal with similar stuff in the future.
I wouldn't give her the option of not going to school if she doesn't want to - it might turn into a habit. My ds, who's nearly 5, says he doesn't want to go sometimes, but I know if I say it's ok not to go once he'll keep asking not to go whenever he doesn't feel like it and I'll end up with a much bigger problem later on.
I haven't been to a child psychologist, but I've alays thought it could be quite interesting, even if you don't have a big problem or any any problem - might help you learn more about your child (if you manage to find a good psychologist, that is), and from what I've read, it could be fun for the child (not at all like formal analysing). That might sound naive, though - as I said, I've never been to one.

oblong Mon 14-Mar-05 11:16:03

Hi,
Thank you very much for your replies - Ameriscot can I ask what your zero-tolerance approach is - do you carry her in kicking and screaming and run?

Shimmy I think you're spot on about the the social side of things being the issue. Tallulah would you advise us to think about changing schools then? - tricky because of the twin thing though we are considering it at seven anyway because the school shrinks in size to one class per year. Vess I don't think it would help to be in the same class as her sister. If anything it makes her shrink more into her shell, as her sister is so confident, happy and outgoing...

lisalisa Mon 14-Mar-05 12:02:36

Message withdrawn

triceratops Tue 15-Mar-05 10:14:31

I hated primary school myself. I would agree with some of the points below. She would probably enjoy school more if she had a good friend. It can't be easy for her constantly comparing herself to her twin who is finding things so much easier. If you could select a girl in her class who is similarly solitary and invite her round for tea a few times it would give your dd somebody she could talk to. Does she go to any clubs or have any hobbies she could develop to bring her out of herself?

aloha Tue 15-Mar-05 15:34:27

I hated all my education from day one of primary to the last day of university! I liked work though. I just think some of us aren't cut out for the horror of school. I survived and made friends but still just hated it. I loved being off sick, no matter how sick! This is probably no help to you at all though. Just don't blame yourself. It was nobody's fault I hated school...I just loathed everything about it (group mentality, the teachers, the playground, the lack of self-determination...everything)

aloha Tue 15-Mar-05 15:41:45

Also, I didn't need a child psychologist. I did perfectly well at school - good O and A levels and degree etc - just that I work better independently and self-directedly and found school just to authoritarian for my personality.

goreousgirl Tue 15-Mar-05 21:06:18

My 5 year old hated her first 3 weeks at school and said no one wanted to play with her.

1) I gave her a hanky with my perfume on, to hold on to in her pocket and blow her nose and wipe tears when she needed emotional support.

2) I cut her sandwiches in to love heart shapes

3) She took 'secret' tiny toys in her pocket to 'look after her' whilst she was there

4) I got the teachers to give her special attention by making a nuisance of myself every day - telling them how well she'd read, or get her to write a special note to them saying how she felt (usually pulls at their heart strings)

5) Organised playdates with the few people she did play with, and made their visits REALLY COOL - so the other kids wanted to come to her house too...

Hope one / all of these might help you too? She now loves school and is a happy camper - I still find it hard to believe!

tatt Wed 16-Mar-05 06:15:37

oblong before you consider anything as expensive as a psychologist invite some of the other children in her class round and listen to them talking. If you can drive them somewhere what they say in the back seat can be very interesting. I would never believe anyone who said my child was happy at school without checking it out. Also if you know the playground/ classroom assistants they can tell a totally different story to the teacher.

At 6 both my children would still play with boys and girls, although at 7 the girl lost interest in the boys. Some of her friends seem to have regained it now, but not in the same way

Kittypickle Wed 16-Mar-05 07:03:03

I am going throught a nightmare with my 6 year old at the moment, things have just come to a head. She's been increasingly unhappy about various things and I have finally got to the bottom of it I think. She's basically being teased really badly (I hesitate to use the word bullied, but it's pretty much that way) by someone who used to be a really good friend. The school is small, the children lovely and I am very good friends with this girl's mother - this is going on under everyone's noses and no one has been able to see it. Also she's very stressed about the work, she has dyspraxia and her teacher mistakes her thinking for day dreaming and has been telling her off. I'm off to do battle with the school this morning. I think what I'm trying to say is not to take things that she says on face value and dig deeper to see if things really are as they seem.

bathmummy Wed 16-Mar-05 07:06:28

I would say that it doesn’t really matter whether the teachers thnk she is popular and happy or what her sisters view on this is. If your daughter feels so unhappy that she doesn’t want to go then that is what counts. Just because whatever is bothering her might be conceived as trivial or not that serious to others doesn’t mean that it is not causing a lot of genuine unhappiness and distress for your child. In your shoes I would be very keen to get to the bottom of what is really upsetting her.
I presume you have talked it through with her and not got far, but have you tried third party "role play" type questionning? This is where you "play" going to school with her and a doll and you are the mummy, the doll is your little girl and she is the other children in the playground and see what she does. Doesn’t work for some children but can be enlightening doing this type of activity. Another one is to try scenario type talks that take her out of the equation but reveal how she feels. For example, pick a quiet moment and say something like "I saw this lady on the tely this morning and she was really sad. Her little boy didn’t like going to school and she was upset that her boy was crying and so miserable but he couldn’t tell her why. As you go to school and are a big girl, why do you think he didn’t want to go to school?....." again, removing her from the picture could make it easier to discussing her own fears or bullying. My last suggestion has already been given - get other school "friends" round and listen and watch, very insightful.
While I do understand why many parents resort to dragging their children into the playground and forcing them to stay at school, reassured by the teachers that they quickly calm down and enjoy the day, personally if this continued for more than a week I would be very keen to get to the cause of the problem and not just deal with the symptoms (ie, defiance and tears). I am not suggestioning that there must be something wrong at school such as bullying, but it is likely. She might also have very real separation anxiety or other fears about leaving you or the house.
Good Luck

lisalisa Wed 16-Mar-05 11:02:50

Message withdrawn

decmum Wed 16-Mar-05 11:48:52

When I was little I moved school approx every two years and learnt pretty much all there is to know about how to integrate fast because I had to. It only takes one child to stir up an unwelcoming gang mentality to sour a childs social interaction and it's subtle stuff that a teacher may not pick up on. So it may just be that your DD has entered a more challenging class than her twin and nothing at all to do with their intrinsic personality. I always got by by morphing myself to fit round the kids I came across but this has its disadvantages and it sounds like your DD has a fantastic little independent streak which will stand her in good stead in other ways.

My brother didn't fair so well so what do you do to help? Listen...which you are clearly doing and follow some of the social suggestions already detailed to try to help her build friendships...if all this fails then don't let it rumble on and don't stop sympathising because she can't help the fact that in her world it's a BIG deal....I remember worrying myself sick about things when I was a child and at the time it seemed overwhelming.

TinyGang Wed 16-Mar-05 12:10:31

Me too - Gorgeousgirl. Your post made me go 'ahh'. Fantastic suggestions

otto Wed 16-Mar-05 15:08:02

My stepdaughter had problems with the social side of school for some time. She too preferred playing with boys, but they didn't want to play with her and wouldn't include her in their games of football etc. She felt she didn't have the same interests as girls of her own age. She is pretty self reliant and took herself off to visit the learning mentor on a regular basis. The learning mentor and another teacher organised for her to have a buddy - an older girl who she could talk to about her problems. They also organised for circle time in the class, so she was included in group discussions.

oblong Wed 16-Mar-05 17:40:46

Thanks you for all your replies and suggestions. We have tried very hard with playdates - she's had many and they've all gone well but the problem is she only really wants the same three boys round (plays very civilly with girls but they just don't click) and I think the boys are not interested in being best friends with her - when one had his birthday treat the other day, he invited the other two, but not her - heartbreaking.

We're pretty confident that no-one's picking on her or being nasty - she's pretty feisty being a twin and all and I'm sure we'd know about it, but she's not happy and you're right, Bathmummy, that's what really matters.

Aloha, Decmum and Otto it's interesting what you say about personality. She is clearly not into being a regular little girl and her teacher told me that she finds it hard to conform - she even sets her special and very specific tasks eg do a drawing of a train but do not put any windows in which, she says, dd finds very difficult to follow - she thinks trains should have windows!

Of course a little bit of me thinks good on ya girl, but the rest of me is worried that her reluctance to accept authority along with her reluctance to be friends with girls will lead to further problems which will ultimately make her unhappy.

I suppose what we really need is another really boyish girl in her class... or a new school.

oblong Wed 16-Mar-05 17:42:44

Oh and Otto, forgot to say, I think the buddy idea could work really well for her - she loves older girls - so will talk to school about that - thanks.

tatt Thu 17-Mar-05 07:04:36

oblong little girls can be pretty horrible to each other. She may not be a very girly girl but if she likes older girls that does tend to suggest an issue with these classmates rather than mixing with girls generally.

Could she be too feisty? I've seen one of the girls in my daughter's class being unhappy with the other girls because she tries to tell them what to do all the time/ wants to be the centre of attention.

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