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Clingy 5 yo starting school - help!

(13 Posts)
hecklephone Tue 09-Aug-11 15:08:15

I'm really dreading next Tuesday. DD1 will be starting P1 and over the past few weeks has been teary or sometimes practically hysterical when separated from me. It started with nursery class and childrens church, now she's starting to cry when being sent off with her Gran or even DH!

I'm pretty sure the root of all this is insecurity and worry about starting school, even though she's been doing school visits/preparation for several weeks now. We're obviously trying to talk it through with her but we're not giving in if we can possibly help it - after all, she HAS to go to school, so we can't send the message that if she cries, she'll get out of it!

How can we make her feel more secure without giving in or being too negative about her emotions? Or do we just have to ride this out until she's started school and settled into it? I just feel rather frustrated by it and am really worried this could go on for some time, and will continue to affect other activities, not just school-related.

Any advice, reassurance or coping tips anyone?

redskyatnight Tue 09-Aug-11 15:39:48

If it's just the last few weeks it sounds like she may be getting anxious about starting school. Can you ask her if there are specific things that she wants to know about starting school (and then finding out the answer if you dont' know it).

With DS it helped to walk through his day as in: so we'll get to school and we'll find your peg and hang up your coat, then we'll go and say hello to the teacher, then the teacher will make you all sit down and call our your names to see who is here ... he was a child that liked to know what was happening next and it helped to understand how the day was structure. It also helped to tell him how long he would be at school (e.g. you'll have lunch and then have a play outside, then you'll do some fun activities in the classroom and have a story and then Mummy will come and pick you up).

Does she have a particular friend that will be in her class? DD really liked to go in with her friend and they gave each other confidence (downside - nightmare when friend is away)!

Finally, the school will understand that some children will be clingy and the staff will be on hand to gently distract and ease them in, if necessary. If it does continue for more than a little while you can also work with them to suggest strategies.

An0therName Tue 09-Aug-11 15:42:44

what I would say is how is she after you leave? If she is just fine the moment you have gone then don't worry about it too much
but maybe of course also talk to her about it -aknowledge how she feels, maybe talk about you feel when you are worried about something, how you felt when starting school/missing your mum - and make sure she knows she has to go to school - we did mummy and daddy would get into trouble if you don't go
and at other times - I am sure you do this but make sure she gets lots of cuddles etc and make sure everything else is a normal as possible and don't try and do much after school for a few weeks

stealthsquiggle Tue 09-Aug-11 15:51:09

I will probably be shot down in flames for this, but is she open to bribery?

She needs to understand it's about pretending to be brave (I know it's naff, but do you know "I whistle a happy tune" from The King & I - it says it well?) - we similarly explained the concept of bluffing to DS - and she only needs to be able to keep it up for the 5-10mins of going into school. If reward charts work for her, then a short term 'star for every time you separate from Mummy with no tears, and 10 (or 5) stars = reward' might be the nudge she needs?

An0therName Tue 09-Aug-11 15:53:41

Friend of mine did bribery with her clingy 3 year old starting pre-school worked a treat

piellabakewell Tue 09-Aug-11 15:58:39

I had a girl in Rec who started crying every morning after a week or so. I used to have a 'Star of the Day' and one afternoon I told her she would be my next Star of the Day if she came into school the following morning without tears. She did, she was, and she never cried again!

smee Tue 09-Aug-11 18:48:35

So hard when they're like that. If it helps at all, DS was like that, but he skips in now, so your DD will too in time am sure.

Might sound strange, but DS found it helpful to realise that everyone he knew had gone to school, so grandparents, me, DH, cousins, our friends, etc. I used to say, well if they can all do it, well so can you. I'm not sure I agree with the reward for no crying, as what if she can't do it? She'll feel a failure straight off. A treat to look forward to at the end of the week is a good idea though. Also a treat on the way can help with tears or reluctance to leave the house. Doesn't have to be anything much. I used to tell DS a story on the way and he loved that.

Best advice though is if she struggles be proactive and find a Teaching Assistant she likes, or see if the Teacher will hold her hand each morning until you've gone. It's a lot easier to leave an upset child if they're with an adult you know they like and trust. Good luck! Really hope she settles quickly.

stealthsquiggle Tue 09-Aug-11 22:16:25

the thing about stars towards a treat is that all is not lost if they miss a day. However, I do see the point - I just suggested it because I have seen it work miraculously well for a few different DC.

DS's 'bribe' of choice was to be allowed to stay for after school care confused

hecklephone Wed 10-Aug-11 08:26:21

These are all good suggestions, thanks folks.

She is always completely fine after I've gone in these situations so I do feel reassured by that.

Will think about treats, star charts etc and maybe put that in place before next week.

It's good to know others have used these tactics before and they've worked!

Mum2be79 Wed 10-Aug-11 18:16:15

Let the school know in advance. not sure about Scottish schools but most in England have 1 or 2 TT Days before the children start so staff will be there.

I sympathise with you immensely. I teach Y1 (5 going on 6) and every year I get at least 1 maybe 2 teary children and same with the Reception classes.

One parent I dealt with actually made his child worse. He actually clung to his screaming child and made no attempt to get him in or to encourage him to go with me. At one point he even RETURNED to give him a kiss and a cuddle for a FOURTH TIME when he eventually got in to hang his coat up and thus the child's emotions and clinginess started all over again! My advice is don't do this! It just prolongs the child's anguish.

In all successful cases of mine - especially those like what you said about your own, that they are fine after you've gone - the less attention the parent gives to the child's screams, cries and clinginess, the better. Your child probably is anxious but she'll soon click onto the thought that she can do this to get what she wants and to get your undivided attention. We tell parents to take them to their teacher, hand them over by the hand, kiss goodbye "See you at ..." and go! Teachers and other staff are trained and used to dealing with this sort of behaviour. It may sound cruel but I as a teacher, give little (by that i do not mean none) attention and in 99% of cases they have stopped crying by the time we reach the classroom door and within 10 minutes they are chatting with their friends!

Once she realises that there is no getting out of going to school and the routine of what happens, she'll probably settle. We give parents and children 2/3 weeks to settle before looking down other avenues. I've never known a child to continue with the 'crying' behaviour for more than a week. Even the child who had a difficult father settled within the second week!

If you want to go down the bribery route, by all means try it. if it works for some it may (or may not) work for you but I suppose ANYTHING is worth a try.

hecklephone Thu 11-Aug-11 08:59:59

Thanks Mum2be, great advice and very reassuring to know this behaviour doesn't last long in most cases. Also good to know I'm doing the right thing so far, trying to act normal and not give too much attention to it. I'll definitely try not to be like the clingy father! smile

bossboggle Tue 16-Aug-11 09:11:17

Hi Hecklephone. Don't panic!! your child will be fine, most reception staff have seen all sorts of children pass through their doors, the biggest thing is for you to act NORMAL, I can assure you most of these children are fine within about ten minutes of getting into the classroom and their parents go home and worry all day about how their little darling has been, meanwhile little darling is having a ball and couldn't care less!! In our school we reassure the children that mummy, dadddy, grown up will be there to collect them after school but that they have to go to school. We have rules that they have to follow and they learn very quickly from their peers too. One rule for all new parents - BE ON TIME TO COLLECT YOUR CHILD!! It can be very scary for a small child if they see their friends being collected and someone isn't there for them and very unsettling too!! (They said they would be coming back but.....!!) Best wishes and good luck as your little one starts school soon.

bossboggle Tue 16-Aug-11 09:19:47

A note for all new parents of school starters just in case you don't know how the school year groups work (my husband still doesn't and our DS is about to go into year 11!!). The infant years are foundation/reception class, year 1 and then year 2. Children then move into the juniors which are years 3, 4, 5 and 6 (That covers first, second and third year infants and years 1-4 juniors for those who still struggle!). Then the child moves into senior school which covers years 7,8,9,10,and their final year 11. (Senior years 1 to 5 for us oldies) and if they are able to stay on they then enter years 12 and then 13 to do A level studies (the sixth form to us!). Most parents will know all of this but I hope it is useful to parents who have no other children at school and are entering the wonderful world of schooling for the first time and have suddenly found it has all changed!!

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