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DS is 3.8 and refuses to go to pre-school - what can I do??

(13 Posts)
flightattendant Thu 15-Feb-07 13:57:56

Hi all. I'm in a bit of trouble here and hope someone can relate / understand. My only child (second baby due in June) seems to be having real separation anxiety, and I am at a loss what to do about it.
We began at a preschool last September, all hopeful, however he wouldn't let me leave him there and I ended up staying around (in the background) every session.
This went on for a few weeks - I tried leaving for a few minutes, but as soon as he noticed I wasn't there, he became hysterical - luckily I was only in the hall as I'd got back by then.
We stopped soon after because I was newly pregnant (bad timing) and had awful M/s so could not stay with him.
We started again at a different one in January. I much prefer it, less rule-bound, they let him hold his milk bottle (banned at the first one!) and are very trustworthy in my opinion - I really like them.
However we still have problems. I stayed for the first few sessions, then left as he seemed to play up / get very angry about the other children when I was there - I suspect because I would play with them, they would sit on my lap, etc. and this upset him.
Anyway the first time I went, he cried on a helper's lap for half an hour - not screaming, just miserable. After that he wandered around looking lost.
The second time, another half hour to settle, then he did join in and both times he was happy when I collected him - or rather, relieved! But no tears at the end.
I was so proud of him and expected it to get easier. But it got worse. Every time the place was mentioned at home, he would protest and ask worriedly if i was going to leave him there.
He's had a few weeks now, only two weeks without me (we go two mornings a week) and apparently is 'fine' when i have gone - I believe them but his protests have grown so that he refuses to leave the house to go there, cries real tears, clings to me, and the other day when we were en route, he was sick half way there so we couldn't go.
I realise this could all be due to my having worries about it - I vividly remember my own first days at primary school, which I never got over really - I was insecure at home because my parents were depressed, and so I believe is my son, because I too suffer with depression - what's more I'm a single parent at present. So he has no one else.
But what can I do?
I can't pretend to him that I'm happy - though I've tried REALLY hard to be jolly about it all - he seems to know I'm scared about it, but y main fear is that he will not be happy - vicious circle!
I feel like a selfish, failed parent, but also that to force him to go will do him no favours - I haven't yet provided him with the emotional 'tools' to be Ok without me, so it's my fault.
But he starts school in September which surely will be a disaster if this doesn't work out?

Bucketsofdynomite Thu 15-Feb-07 14:37:02

MY DD went through a phase after her first half term holiday, not that bad but she really didn't want to go. I used to say I had to drop something off for her keyworker so we'd just go for a walk there. We were always late due to the howls and arguments.
Once inside, the keyworker would take her off for a sitdown and a cuddle because they have freeplay for the first half hour.
I don't think forcing him to go is going to do any harm, as long as you're there to pick him up on time. He's obviously had a bit of upheaval and sounds frightened you're going to leave him too so he needs to learn pre-school as a ritual. I doubt very much that you haven't taught him the emotional tools -I don't know the story why you're recently single but it sounds like that's undone your good work temporarily. Can't be helped, just keep going, in fact could you get him another morning even?

brandy7 Thu 15-Feb-07 14:43:20

oh dear poor you, i remember this so well with my ds whos now 12. he suffered extreme seperation anxiety from nursery and through to reception and beyond

the only thing i could do was have him peeled off me screaming,turn my back on him and walk away and this continued for the whole of reception as well. the teachers would have to peel him off me and give him lots of reassurance that i was coming back. there really was no other way to do it

apparently he was ok when i left him. my youngest is starting preschool in december and im dreading it

slim22 Thu 15-Feb-07 15:45:25

don't be so hard on yourself.
You are obviously already aware that they pick up our anxiety, so try and remain cool and upbeat when you drop him.
Allow yourself a meltdown after you leave. I just walk briskly for 10 minutes after I drop him off and hope for the best.
DS is 2.10mths. He started attending nursery in october and up to this day, we have a proper drama eveymorning at the school gate. Yes they do have to drag him in somedays. But after 5 minutes, he is enjoying himself.
He is doing 3 full days a week now and is well settled in his routine. He knows I pick him up after tea time, so sometimes he starts moaning as soon as his meal is finished. Most times though, he is happily playing when i get there.
There is no way around it. You have to show a brave face and let him get used to this.
I have noticed a slight regressive behaviour at home, which is linked to this separation anxiety .ie: mummy feed me, mummy help me put my clothes on and mainly resistance to potty training.
I just keep going and day in day out I encourage him to do it all by himself. Yesterday, he washed and rinsed his hair on his own while I was not looking!!! Great achievement considering he used to shriek when we tried to wash his hair!!!
Good luck and persevere with the routine.

juuule Thu 15-Feb-07 17:45:08

I took my dd out of playgroup at the easter before she started nursery in the September as she was upset at going. Everyone told me I'd shown her that she could get her own way and that I'd be in the same position in September and that it was better to persevere and let her know that she had no choice. Well, guess what, come September she went to nursery with no problems at all.
So I wouldn't think that if this doesn't work out September will be a disaster. It's not necessarilly so.

redshoes Fri 16-Feb-07 18:04:48

I agree with Juule. My ds was torn off me for 2 years of nursery/pre-school - but had no problems at all starting school. He just was ready for it. However, I don't think he was damaged in any sense by attending nursery - and I needed him to go. Hth.

MrsGoranVisnjic Fri 16-Feb-07 18:09:58

leave him with something of yours that he knows you'll be back to collect

kiss him quickly and say goodbye quickly then leave

you need to be very matter of fact about it and don't get into negotations / conversations about it .. no big fusses

talk through with nursery what should happen

if he was younger I wouldn't worry so much but he's nearly 4 and will be starting school in September? you need to get this cracked

if you can't manage it, can dad take him for a couple of weeks?

MrsGoranVisnjic Fri 16-Feb-07 18:11:32

or take him out of nursery and go to lots of playgroups with him where everybody stays .. but try to let him learn to interact with others rather than you

Lazylou Fri 16-Feb-07 18:14:36

Have you got something special that you could give him that belongs to you, something so special and important that he knows you will have to come back for?

I experienced this for a while with DD at her new nursery, even though we were in the same building. I was working in the baby unit and she was attending the pre-school. I used to leave an old purse with her, telling her that it was very important that she looked after it for me. The idea was that she felt that she was a big girl and I was giving her my trust. I told her evryday to keep hold of my special purse, because after nursery we would need it to go shopping to buy her something special for being such a big, helpful girl whislt mummy went to work.

The bribes started off as sweets but we slowly managed to turn it around, so she got a magazine once a week, and pieces of fruit, the occasional sweet (maybe on a friday).

The bribes worked well for a bit and now we don't need to use them at all. However, if she has a bad day, I give her the purse and ask her to keep hold of it, because she will need it after nursery to choose something lovely for dinner (she gets to choose on these days).

Hope this helps.

flightattendant Fri 16-Feb-07 18:44:13

Thankyou all - there are some good suggestions and also I appreciate hearing your different experiences. I don't want to make him think it's a bad thing to keep going there, just have a feeling that with the new baby arrivingin a short while he is pretty insecure and worried about all the changes going on.
Might try the playgroup thing, very good idea - though I wonder if he's a bit boisterous for all the tinies!
We have talked about it all at preschool and the staff are very helpful - have suggested and tried the 'giving him something special' trick, he ignored it completely and just clung to me crying...also done the quick departure, which yes, he's Ok after a while, but our mornings seem to be getting worse so we can't actually leave the house!
Oh dear I'm not very good at being in charge...the thing is I know the place will not harm him but his own fear is a potent thing, and to blatantly ignore his real tears and concerns, seems to me to be undoing all the efforts to let him know I respect him over the years - I don't want him to have to resort to anything other than telling me how he feels and trusting me to listen.
Otherwise he can just pull the 'being sick on the way' trick every time...I'm not sure if that's normal?
Poor kid - either he thinks he's supposed to be scared, or else he genuinely is - and how do you tell the difference?
BTW has anyone delayed sending their child to school at 4 1/4 and left it till they were 5? Getting desperate here

flightattendant Fri 16-Feb-07 18:50:28

Oh - and we've tried the bribes, too! With no joy so far...tough cookie my son!

redshoes Sat 17-Feb-07 21:05:50

You could home-ed him - see the home-ed threads for useful links. Would save you all the hassle of getting him to school with a newborn.

peanutbutterkid Wed 21-Feb-07 22:39:30

I feel like I've had and tried everything with my DCs.

Don't really believe in the "just be tough a few times they'll get over it quickly" thing, it doesn't work the same with all children.

If it were me, I would plan to stay all the sessions with him. and see if I could ease him into letting me go after a while, just for a half hour at first, and try to build up from there.

Make a point of not playing at him during the sessions, he needs practise interacting with other children and adults, not you. But he'll know you're there for him to come back to, all the same.

Why be tough before you have to, when he starts school? My clingiest child I tried being tough with initially, it didn't work. I know how to be tough; I did it with 3rd child and it worked like textbook (but clingy DD obviously didn't read the textbook). So I went soft on her, instead, before she started school, often staying sessions, I'm so GLAD I did things like that. After a while she was sending me away at sessions, it made her feel a bit more in control -- well, fair enough. Who doesn't want to feel in control of their security blankets? Then I turned tough when she started school and she really had to stay without me, and she really did get over it in 5 days because she really was (finally) ready.

I'm fed up with our society's view of constantly pushing children away, trying to make them be independent before they're ready.

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