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Please help - separation anxiety in 5yo DD (about to finish reception but tears and clinging every day)(13 Posts)
DD1 is a June baby and quite shy, although I have no concerns that she doesn't enjoy school once she's there. She'll mostly get to school ok but won't queue up and go in like all the other children - she wants me to go in with her and then cries and hangs off my leg while the teacher prises her off (then I leg it). Tuesday hit a new low when I had to pull her from the car, then carry her crying and kicking to the classroom. (Then I went back to the car and cried for about half an hour ) I had a meeting with the teacher that afternoon and didn't really find any reasons, but I've made her a deal that if she can go into the classroom by herself for the rest of the week she'll get a major treat (zoo and ice cream) on Saturday. Today she grudgingly went in holding the teacher's hand but was very sad. She says she misses me and just wants to be with me all the time. If I put her to bed she won't let me leave the room (keeps crying/clinging/making deals to come back in five mins). If DH takes her to school/puts her to bed she's fine.
So the problem seems to be leaving me. I try not to let her be too clingy (I'll go in the classroom but would happily offload her straight away), and she's never had a day off sick so knows it doesn't matter how much fuss she makes or how ill she claims to be she's still going to school. If she's feeling clingy and unhappy I don't want to be too harsh on her, but she has to learn that sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do etc.. She's not interested in 'being a big girl' so I can't get her to be brave that way, and she doesn't seem to care what her peers think of her crying or anything. There's a lovely girl in her class who usually comes up and asks if DD wants to sit next to her etc but DD just ignores her when she's upset.
Is she ok once she gets into school? Is she clingy in other situations?
This reminds me very much of my DS. I had to peel him off my leg every morning. But he was totally fine in school and also clingy to me out of school - just the person he was.
I wish I could give you a magic cure but in our case it was really a case of grinning and bearing it until he "outgrew" it. In our case (sorry!) this was Y3 - when I think the move to the "bigger" juniors and the fact that we started school run sharing with neighbours encouraged him to grow up.
Some suggestions which may help
- firstly remind yourself that DD is fine once she gets in to school (assuming she is). She is just sad to leave you because she loves you so much.
- can someone else take her to school, or even take her from you at the school gate.
- walk away briskly
- have a set parting routine e..g I'll give you a kiss and say goodbye, then I'll walk away.
- encourage her to get involved with friends before school or even go in with a friend.
- use the move to Y1 as a chance to "break" the habit from day 1
I'm afraid to say that she is playing you...My DS was exactly like this in the nursery class at school - on a couple of occasions they had to peel him screaming from me as I tried to leave to get to work. And I was the same as you, tears in my eyes and sobbing my heart out as soon as I got back in the car. Then one day, he let the facade drop - only for a second but I caught a look from him, and I realised that he wasn't actually distressed, he was just trying it on. I have no doubt he did want to spend the day with me (and I with him frankly!) but he did feel as strong about it emotionally as his behaviour would suggest!
I found it much easier to deal with leaving him from then, and his behaviour improved at the same time - probably because he could sense that I wasn't being distressed by his crying any more so it wasn't worth the effort! He did carry on trying it on in reception, but thankfully, when we transferred from parents dropping kids in classroom to them lining up with the older kids it stopped altogether.
All I can recommend is that you try to stop worrying about it - the fact that she is fine at school and will happily dropped by other people really shows she's actually fine. If you can not worry about it, she will pick up on it, and realise she's not going to win this one. I know it's really hard, especially if she's a PFB (mine is PLB!) but I'd take bets she's actually fine. The other thing to do is to break the cycle by having someone else drop her as often as possible.
Good luck, I know how difficult it is!
Would maybe going to breakfast club if there is one for a bit break the cycle and maybe take some of the pressure out of the whole situation.
Where are you whilst she is a school? eg if you are at home or she thinks you are doing fun things with her younger siblings could that be an issue.
Hope you manage to get it sorted.
Thanks everyone (yes she is a PFB, think that might be part of the problem! Also DH was very shy as a child so we sort of compare her to how he was, although she's not as bad as he was iykwim). There isn't a breakfast club or anything, and DH is working so can't really get him to do it. She's
been dragged gone in the last two days on her own with a bit of cajoling from the teachers (and me pretty much running away) so I think if we can just stick with it she'll get used to it. She's quite clingy at unfamiliar places (I could never leave her at a kids party where most of the other mums do now, but she is getting better at joining in, it takes her about 15 minutes to warm up now whereas at the beginning of the school year it was sometimes over an hour).
She doesn't seem to care what I'm doing when I'm not there, her sister is in preschool so not doing anything fun with me (and they can chat through the fence at playtime if they're both outside, although I don't think they do very often).
I've told her that in year 1 parents can't come into the classroom so that'll be it then, it would just be nice to sort it now as otherwise I'll be dreading it all over the holidays.
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply, will keep you posted...
So this morning we had a stressful start as it was a mufti day and she spent 20 minutes trying to decide what to wear, but when we got to school she just walked in on her own (not sure she even said goodbye!) I have no idea what's changed but am so relieved. She's still super clingy at night but if we can get there one step at a time I'll be so pleased. Will see what Monday brings...x
This is just an idea and it may not work in your situation - so give it some though first - but a friend of mine established that her DD did like her teachers and did enjoy school first. Once she was sure of that she tried the line of telling her DD that if she cries every morning when going into school and seems upset the teachers will think you don't like them and be really upset.
It took a few weeks to sink in - but it did and she gradually stopped it.
The only thing I will add - because you sound very upset/ stressed by this - is that it is a phase (I had it in nursery school actually with DD2) but it will pass. I tried to explain to DD2 that she was very lucky that all sorts of people want to spend time with her playing great games and learning fun things. We just can't all do it at once. So we grown ups take turns and it means Mummy and Daddy can go to work and that helps us save for special things like trips to Grandma's, special holidays and of course birthday presents!
Finally the issue may be the noise & business of school. It isn't a relaxing environment. She may be missing quiet, calm time with you. The good news is that as she progresses through KS1, classes will become more formal/ structured and less about 'learning through play' and therefore noise levels will go down and order/ structure to one's day will increase.
I had this up until very recently with DS1 who is 7. He would wake up saying 'I don't want to go to school' and cling onto me in the line once we got there. All his friends would be off playing in the woods whilst we waited to go in & he'd stand holding onto me, refusing to let go. He'd get more and more agitated and refuses to move once the line went in. Then I'd have to peel him off me & physically push him into the cloak room. As I walked away he'd often follow me, begging me not to go. It came to a head recently where he sobbed & clung on in front of his whole class whilst the teacher tried to pull him off me. It was absolutely awful. But we came up with a simple solution, instead of lining up with his class I now take him straight into the classroom, just before the bell rings, where he is 'pencil monitor' (sharpens pencils!) until the rest of the class join him in there. It has stopped all the anxiety & refusing to go in. He is still clingy, that's the way he is made, but he happily goes into the classroom every morning. I do hope you find a solution to help your DD, it is heartbreaking for you, I totally understand how you feel. I know a couple of people who have gone through the same thing with their child and it has got better as they've got a bit older, it really is just a phase.
Mufti days are a nightmare.
Can't you arrange with another Mum "to be busy" one morning so she is dropped at a friends house (or on the way to school) so she goes in with a friend?
So she's gone in really well the last two days too (yay!!) I'm really proud of her as she's still struggling a bit emotionally (still says she really misses me etc) but is being really strong and fabulous.
Stepford I don't know why but the teachers seem really against her going in first on her own. It seemed to me to be the obvious solution (the couple of times we've gone in as she's needed a wee etc it has really helped). If she hadn't have managed now I'd have pushed again for it.
Thanks for all the support, this hasn't been easy and I really appreciate the support
I know these convo had many years ago - but this really is appalling advice! To suggest that children as young as 4 years old need to be emotionally blackmailed into guilt by telling them that 'mummy needs to work to pay for nice holidays' is ridiculous and that children are manipulative. They are toddlers! They express what they feel esp being left in the care of strangers over the person who is theit only source of security. I am so shocked at this.