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3 year old with severe anxiety. Advice needed

(20 Posts)
Beccapawley Tue 26-Jul-16 20:23:48

Hi there everyone. I am a mum to my two girls! My eldest turned 3 a couple of months ago. She is a very happy, healthy, bright child. Socially she has many friends, is confident and since a very young age has been used to baby and toddler groups and play dates. She has been left with family members and friends here and there as well. I tried to start her at a pre school before baby number 2 arrived. She had talked to me about the fact she knows mummy always comes back and we happily talked about all the exciting things she would be able to do. The first two mornings I dropped her off she screamed and cried as I left and they rang me after 1 hour both days saying she wasn't settling at all and would just remain tearful asking for me the whole time. The third morning they let her stay for the full 3 hours, when I arrived I could see her eyes were red and sore and they told me she'd basically cried the entire time and they weren't able to distract her. We came home and she fell fast asleep. She woke up and cried and screamed and begged me never to take her back. And articulated that she didn't like being without me. Every time we drove/drive past she bursts into tears and begs me not to take her there (it's a wonderful outstanding nursery). It's genuine fear I feel from her and genuine tears. She will only do pre school classes such as ballet if it's a class where I can be in the room. Otherwise she cries and sobs and we have to leave.

A few months down the line and now all her friends are due to go to pre school in our village. Despite this she is adamant that she doesn't want to go. And if I suggest it she breaks down. Today we walked past some older boys and she asked where there mummy's were and I explained that when you get to be a grown up girl you don't have to be with your mummy all the time and you can go out with your friends. She stopped in her tracks had tears running down her eyes and said she wants to stay with me forever. She hasn't stopped talking about it all day and it becomes hard because she thinks about it so much she just keeps making herself cry.

I know she would absolutely love and thrive at nursery as plenty of pre school children do. I'm a stay at home mum so I would happily have her at home with me until school but I feel the issue will continue then. As a primary school teacher (pre motherhood) I know how hard some children can find it but I'm desperate to help her cope with this anxiety that is stopping her enjoying things she otherwise would before she legally has to go to school. Any advice or stories from mums who've experienced similar would be so wonderful to hear, is it a phase? Is it something I'm doing wrong? Is there anything I can do?

Becca X

mandyemma13 Thu 01-Sep-16 23:32:58

Personally I would tell her to stop being silly and tell her she is a little lady now and she has to go to school to learn.
Tell her she can have a treat at the end of the week if she doesn't cry for you and do a reward chart or something.

I think it's not your child but the fact you are a bit soft with her. My daughter hated her nursery and would throw a tantrum when getting her nursery uniform on. I used to just ignore it and reward her when she would get dressed by letting her feed the cat.
Just tell her If she cries you won't pick her up. She will soon realise who is boss...

StringyPotatoes Thu 01-Sep-16 23:53:07

That's a bit harsh, don't you think. If she cries Mummy won't come? That's likely to make the anxiety a whole lot worse! What if she falls and hurts herself and is in pain? What if someone is unkind to her or she feels unwell? She wouldn't ask for help for fear of Mummy abandoning her. Don't be absurd!

OP, I don't have an answer but I can empathise a bit. I'm a nanny and whilst my LO (almost 4) adores going to Pre-School and to his grandparents any suggestion of me, Mummy, or Daddy leaving him anywhere else is met with heartbreaking tears.

Could you try a few "practice runs" at home? Make a little timetable such as:
Mummy goes
I build a tower with my blocks
I give Teddy a cuddle
I jump up and down three times
Mummy comes back
Then leave her in the bedroom to do the tasks and return when she's finished. Set a timer for 2mins.

You could then send her for an hour with grandparents or a friend with a similar timetable like
Mummy goes
I bake a cake
I watch Peppa Pig
I ice the cake
Mummy comes back

Physically make the timetable so she can tick off each thing she does and can see "Mummy Time" getting closer. Show her photos of you with your parents as a little girl (if appropriate) and talk about how you don't live with them any more because you're a grown up but you can visit/Skype/email. Explain that it's a long time until she'll be a grown up so you'll be around a long time yet!

Gradually work up to Pre-School. Ask them about the day and get photos of various important things so you can make a little book about a typical day there including where she'll hang her coat, the playground, where she'll sit for snack and wash her hands etc.
When the day comes to actually go, make another timetable for her to mark off as she goes along.

Now The Fear has been established it will be hard to break but not impossible. You'll just need a little patience and yes, maybe a firm hand, but you sound very loving and caring so I'm sure you'll find a way!

coffeecakemum Fri 02-Sep-16 00:07:41

Hi, my son was and is a mummy's boy. His first few weeks in nursery were hell. He cried himself to sleep and also never ate any food. The previous poster has some lovely advice. Just one more suggestion is to have play dates with friends from same nursery if possible. I did this and it helped loads as they see same faces. I used to start saying in morning that your friends mom texted me and he is v excited to play trains with you at nursery or something like that. I also discussed with the staff there if he could sit next to friend even for few mins. This helped massively as he forgot about mummy time and started to think about his planned activity with friend. He managed to finish a year of preschool and is now going to start reception. He was totally fine in the second month. It will get better and since she is already social it's just a phase and fear of unknown. I also give a sticker for smiling and not crying (a smiley) sticker and would say if you are sad then you will get a sad sticker. We put it on a chart before bedtime and he got a treat on Saturday morning from dad for more smileys earned. Good luck!

CodyKing Fri 02-Sep-16 00:21:13

Can you volunteer for a few mornings?

Might help her explore if you're there but interacting with the other kids and not just her?

Have you asks her how your class - as a teacher might feel about you looking after them? Turn the tables?

mummytime Fri 02-Sep-16 00:31:18

Pre school is not compulsory - if she really doesn't want to go then you don't have to force her. If you are about to have a baby then you will be at least on maternity leave.
It will not affect her school place, or mean she will find it that much harder to make friends at school (there are almost certainly other children who will not go to the village pre-school). When she is older and there are fewer changes happening she may settle easily.

When she is 18 she is very very unlikely to not be able to cope with classes outside the home without you being there. And just as if you pick up a baby when they cry they become more confident, so allowing her to develop at her own pace now may get rid of the anxiety.

eyebrowsonfleek Fri 02-Sep-16 00:46:09

Pre-school/nursery isn't compulsory. Nothing wrong with not sending her somewhere before reception. Some children just aren't ready until they are older. My sons had severe separation anxiety which sorted itself almost overnight during their Reception year.
Will your daughter stay with a grandparent or daddy without you there? If so, that's fine. New sibling often means feeling insecure and regressing emotionally. If you wanted to push her to go I'd wait until things had settled down a few months after birth. The arrival of a sibling is apparently the same emotional upheaval as your spouse bringing home a second wife/husband.

Clankboing Fri 02-Sep-16 00:52:37

My son was similar. He soon forgot it by end of day 1 in nursery!

ReallyTired Fri 02-Sep-16 02:57:51

A half decent pre school will have strategies for helping children get over seperation anxiety. You might stay the first few mornings or your child might just stay one hour.

In your position I would tell her that she is now a big girl and will be going to nursery to learn new skills. A child who doesn't attend nursery is at a disadvantage both socially and academically. This time next year she will be in proper school. Very few children do not attend an early years setting.

In your position I would be firm and tell her she has to go. If you have 100% in the nursery nurses then she will be fine. There maybe a few tears at drop off, but she will stop crying very quickly. It's rare that a child cries the entire morning.

See if you can watch some tv programmes about children going to nursery together.

ReallyTired Fri 02-Sep-16 03:18:04

Woolly and tig first day at nursery is on YouTube.

mandyemma13 Fri 02-Sep-16 09:55:13

Sometimes kids need tough love. Kids don't get anxious for no reason. My 4 year old gets scared and I toughen her up. It's a big world out there. If your child falls over do you want them to come running and crying for a cuddle or get up and carry on?

ReallyTired Fri 02-Sep-16 18:11:35

I cringe at the idea of toughening up small children. Seperation anxiety is real and is a survival mechanism. The caveman three year old who didn't cry when left got eaten up by the sabre tooth tiger.

Most nurseries have a dignified way of helping young children to settle. Why should we expect a child to be happy being left with a complete stranger. It's ironic we tell children not to speak to strangers but expect them to accept being left with a stranger without fuss.

A good nursery will introduce the child's key worker to them. The parent may stay for part of the session so that the child feels at ease with the key worker. Over time a bond will develop between the child and the nursery nurse and the child will feel safe. The child will learn the routines of nursery and expected behaviour. Reception will be less of a shock.

As parents our priority should be making our child feel safe and learn that school/nursery is a good place to be.

JinkxMonsoon Fri 02-Sep-16 18:20:52

Don't call it "severe anxiety". I'd call it normal smile

I had a terrible time settling my DD at preschool. Awful. The first session I stayed for a while and then left, and they called me to say she was inconsolable. So after many failed attempts at leaving her there, I ended up going to preschool with her for an entire half term blush She'd never been away from me before and her reaction was part upset, part anger (she's a stubborn child).

In the end they had a word and said, obviously, I couldn't attend with her forever. They suggested switching to much quieter afternoon sessions (think 8 children instead of 20) so it was less rowdy and she got more adult attention. That helped a lot.

But in the end I did have to get a bit tough. Yes, preschool isn't compulsory but I wanted her to go to preschool and there's no shame in that! I needed a break and she needed the stimulation.

Anyway, she got there in the end, only to regress completely when I tried to get her to attend full day sessions at 4.5. And although I did let her go back to just afternoons, I had to get tough and drag her there crying, once she'd decided that she didn't want to go back to preschool, ever. The way I saw it was I couldn't give her the message that she could get out of school by crying, especially with Reception looming.

Gymnopedies Wed 19-Oct-16 12:06:36

You said that she is usually fine when other adults are in charge, is it worth emphasizing that the teachers will be taking care of her until mummy comes back? Does she think she will be on her own?
You could tell her more about your job as a teacher and what you did in class so she knows that some of the teachers are mummies too.

Gymnopedies Wed 19-Oct-16 12:11:06

Oh and for Mandy, yes I would always prefer my DCs to come over for a cuddle if they hurt themselves. And I think they grow very strong and confident if you protect and cuddle them, and show them that their feelings are important.

GinIsIn Wed 19-Oct-16 12:11:29

Is there someone else who can take her there instead of you?

HSMMaCM Wed 19-Oct-16 18:33:54

I was also going to suggest that maybe someone else could take her.

Dd went off to pre school confidently and i thought starting reception would be a breeze. She had massive separation anxiety then. Pre school does not always help.

HSMMaCM Wed 19-Oct-16 18:35:17

Just seen the start date of this thread. Hopefully the problem has been resolved one way or the other.

McWeedie Wed 19-Oct-16 18:53:11

My ds4 has diagnosed anxiety. When I started him at pre school I started off staying an hour then sat in the car park so I could be nearby and gradually reduced the time I sat with him until after a couple of months I could just drop and go. He had a few wobbles along the way but had a fantastic key worker which really helped.

He's just started reception and I was very concerned we would have a repeat - he doesn't like change. He has been a bit tearful in the mornings but seems happy and bouncy when I pick him up.

Do you think your DD is picking up on your anxiety? Also with DS discussing things he is anxious about, ie. school is a big no no and just makes him more anxious.

When I drop him off I just tell him all the boring things I'm going to do, things I know he hates doing and all the fun things we will do later.

I would also add that DS is very adamant about not doing certain things and gets very upset but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and push on.

user1485705791 Thu 02-Feb-17 07:51:32

She is not being silly at all. These are real feelings. It looks as though she doesn't understand that you are not abandoning her, you will always come back. I would calmly talk to her about this. If you are a sahm and she never went to a nursery, she is not used to you leaving and coming back. In a descent preschool/nursery you would be able to join in and very slowly spend less and less time near her as she got used to friends and teachers. I would stay with her for 1h and bring her home and working at her pace, slowly retrieve yourself. Good luck!

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