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How to prep our sensitive LO for school?

(28 Posts)
1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 00:38:43

Hi. How can we best prepare our 3.5 year old son for school in September? He finds separation very difficult, e.g. crying hard and clinging on to me when I drop him at nursery (although he stops crying a few minutes after I leave). He started nursery at 1 year old, doing 4 full days per week, and it has always been hard to settle him into each new room. It takes him much longer than most and he seems to be the only one crying in his current room - since the beginning of September. He is very reserved in certain situations but I would not describe him as shy, just cautious and slightly anxious. He has started to worry about school, asking me whether I will be going to school with him (weep!). However much we try to help him gain confidence - (talking about his fears and reassuring, gently familiarising him with the things that frighten him, toddler 'acting' group), it doesn't seem to change things for him. We don't want to change him as such, it's more to give him confidence to deal with the next stage. Please help!

ExplodedCloud Wed 11-Jan-17 00:43:03

My ds seemed shockingly unready for school but they change a lot suddenly. Big it up during the summer. He doesn't need to start in September if you have serious concerns but school will cope.

1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 00:52:32

Thanks ExplodedCloud. I worry a lot about him crying by himself with no one to hug him. He's not even fully potty trained yet (nappies on temporarily for poo). In the words of his nursery he is "very bright" and he picks up on things very quickly - this has its downsides e.g. overthinking. I just cannot see him running in the door happily or looking forward to it. Hoping for a great change in a few months!

ExplodedCloud Wed 11-Jan-17 01:02:56

Ds was still in nappies too. That was my biggest concern. He made it into pants for school though. He is a bit physically immature for his age. But reception was all about finding their fun and quite soft. DS doesn't appreciate anything making his life difficult and protests vociferously. A heart of stone is sometimes required to push him out of his comfort zone.

Treetophouses Wed 11-Jan-17 05:43:37

I made the mistake talking about school with him too much too early - and getting the kind of teddy goes yo school books - as we also had a rocky nursery start. Think he got more worried rather than it settling his fears. He was really really anxious over the summer. But as soon as he started, he was absolutely fine.

There is a lot of development in those 8-9 months. Whilst being a bit more anxious may well be character and not developmental, the change in my son during the final nursery year was phenomenal and by July I felt he might actually be ready (-ish), apart from his anxiety.

For what it's worth, none of the 30 children in my son's class cried much beyond the first week, they all just line up in the playground as they see the older children do and the parents drop with a quick wave and a kiss. Reception is still quite play based and there's definitely still a hug or lap for the kids when they get upset at our school. Not sure if that helps at all? X

DrDiva Wed 11-Jan-17 06:40:31

My DS, who was 9 weeks prem and has therefore gone up a school year, had nightmares about school a few months before he started - he is a real "what if?" Thinker and can come up with a whole range of possible scenarios, good and bad! What really helped in the end was nursery taking him into reception and showing him the reality - every single time they took a group through they let him tag in. After a few weeks he felt much better. Can you perhaps take him to a class to show him what it is like?
There is also an amazing difference between 3.5 and 4. I swear I saw him grow up in front of me on his fourth birthday!
Another thing that helped was that of course not everyone was going up to school - he was one of the big boys who was, isn't that exciting?! (My ds is big on age appropriateness!)

smellyboot Wed 11-Jan-17 09:14:09

He will change a lot in the next 9 months. I'd park all conversations about school now and leave until the summer. Most schools do transition and settling sessions in June / July and you may be able to find out who his class mates will be and meet up before hand. He is only 3.5 so going to school in 8 months is a lifetime away for him in reality.
No doubt nursery will do activities with the leavers too that will help him - stuff about moving to school etc
Whilst you may be wrapped up in application and finding out which school etc and be anxious, he doesnt need to think about it for months x

2014newme Wed 11-Jan-17 09:17:56

Oops he is anxious about nursery and you've introduced big scary school into the discussion, not a good idea. Forget all chats about school until it actually becomes relevant. You've stressed him out more. No need to be mentioning it until it's time fir him to start the familiarisation visits.

DameDiazepamTheDramaQueen Wed 11-Jan-17 09:47:56

It's a whole lifetime away yet,no talking about it until much nearer the time and don't forget there will be introduction sessions to school before it actually starts properly.

1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 10:03:26

Thank you - very helpful

NotCitrus Wed 11-Jan-17 10:06:24

They get wound up so easily. We stuck to the simple line that school was like nursery only bigger and better, because there were more toys for his age and didn't need the babyish ones.
We didn't know which school ds would go to until the week before (had about 50:50 chance of a waiting list space), so extra good reason to be as low-key as possible.

1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 10:07:23

2014newtome, I think your words were a bit harsh. My son first picked up about school without me mentioning it so it didn't come from us. If your intention was to make me feel more worried, it worked. I have been nothing but positive about school though since but take on board that I won't feed his curiosity further.

rolypolydoll Wed 11-Jan-17 10:09:21

My little boy was just like this, didn't settle into nursery at all and I was really worried about school- he was nervous the first few weeks but he really loves school and is so much more confident. Hope it's similar for your son flowers

1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 10:10:08

All - I really appreciate the help here. I'll relax about his development and will avoid the school topic. He loves nursery once I've gone so I'm not worried once he's there. Thanks.

2014newme Wed 11-Jan-17 10:14:45

Your thread is titled how to prep for school, the advice from all seems to be forget about school for now as the focus on that is causing anxiety for you and your son. He has lots of time before school needs to be on the horizon. You asked how to give him confidence for the next stage the best option is to stop mentioning that there is a next stage!
If that seems harsh on you then that's unfortunate. But the familiarisation process at school is looooong and they know what they are doing. You don't need to start the process at 3.5. There is another thread today from someone who has started reading "starting school" books with her toddler and is finding it's having an adverse affect. Let him get used to preschool if he's unsettled and crying when you leave it's not the time to talk about another big change.

BabyHaribo Wed 11-Jan-17 10:16:13

My son is a real 'over thinker' too. He was very worried about school.

The transition visits helped reassure him it wasn't that bad. He has taken a while to settle and still given the choice would not go but he is relatively happy to go in in the morning.

He loves the learning so we focus on that. They do change so much between now and starting school and even in the first term I can see changes.

It's a big change for him and you but he will get used to it. Also do what suits your child best. DS school are keen they have school dinners but packed lunch suited DS better so we did that.

Good luck and don't worry

smellyboot Wed 11-Jan-17 10:17:05

I don't think 2014 meant to be harsh. I took it as just adding perspective. Lots of us have the benefit of having being though it and are posting to help. Hopefully you will get a school you want and by June he will be invited to settling in sessions. Mine went to different nurseries and also school nursery and all the nurseries near us do sessions with the preschoolers around July to prepare them for moving on

BernardsarenotalwaysSaints Wed 11-Jan-17 10:23:55

Relax. He will be fine. There may be tears, from both of you, but he won't be the only one. The change that takes place over the next 9 months is huge. Reception, particularly for the 1st term is very like nursery.

user1477282676 Wed 11-Jan-17 10:26:23

I have two DD"s and my eldest was very like your DS. She was also a Summer born and so was the youngest in the class.

She was fine. Yes we did have ups and downs but the teachers are used to this and know all the tricks. They are caring OP and there will be other sensitive children there so DS can play with children who are also quiet or scared.

It doesn't last long....before you know it he will be full of confidence! School is great and most have a ball.

1BunOldie Wed 11-Jan-17 10:46:25

Thank you all for further comments. Much appreciated.

eyebrowsonfleek Wed 11-Jan-17 10:50:16

Sorry but I agree with 2014. I have a son who's scared to go to secondary and my advice to him is to not think about it until closer to the time or he is going to miss out on all the fun memories of year 6.
Some parents really over emphasise the Big School thing and I'm not surprised that kids end up scared. He will get the chance to visit and meet his teacher in the summer. Until then keep it casual- don't call it Big School. It's like nursery but in a different location and there's a uniform. I think that kids feed off adult vibes and if it's made into A Big Deal then they will worry.
Do you know any older children who go to school? A word from an older child about how great the playground is or how much playing he gets to do may be more effective ?

Lucienandjean Wed 11-Jan-17 11:01:21

Hi, I used to teach reception until very recently, and I also had a nervous starter myself (my dd).

I agree it's too soon to go into detail about school. The odd mention in passing, so it's on his radar, is a good idea, however.

Over the summer talk a bit more about it, walk past the school occasionally and mention it casually, and go to any transition meetings. When you come to leave him, say goodbye, emphasise you will be back later, and go! Honestly, the staff will not leave him crying alone. We've all spent time holding crying little ones, and in every case but one that I remember, they swiftly stopped crying with a bit of comfort and distraction. We coped with the one that didn't stop crying and he settled too, though it took longer.

My dd cried every morning for most of a term, but I knew she stopped within a few minutes, and was happy for the rest of the day.

It's fine to ring to check they're ok the first few times. Don't expect an instant reply as someone may have to go to check he's ok, and then ring you back!

I think being matter of fact and practical to the child helps - they need to go, you will be back later, that sort of thing. So not unsympathetic to the child, but not making school optional! It will be fine, honestly.

MollyHuaCha Wed 11-Jan-17 11:05:38

One of my DSs was like this. When I'd enthusiastically talk about attending the school in the future, his bottom lip wd tremble and he wd just say 'I'm not going there'. He was already attending the school's nursery in the mornings, but didn't like that much either as he was small, timid, dyspraxic and felt overwhelmed by more mature, domineering personalities. Like you, I had read the sch preparation story books, got him to practise writing his name, I had involved him in choosing uniform, practised putting the uniform and shoes on, walked him round the school several times (he had an older sibling already there), made sure he understood the layout of the school and generally been positive about what a delightful time he wd have 'in big school'.
It didn't help that he didn't actually like it when he got there... huge class with the same bossy children in it, a culture of lining up, being quiet, sitting down, told off in whole class lectures "Children, I'm waiting for you all to stop talking and fidgeting", feeling lousy at reading and writing (turned out to be dyslexic). He was pale and exhausted by 3.30 each day and all the things I had brightly promised had not happened for him.

Looking back, what cd I have done differently? Possibly these things:

1. Choose sch more carefully - we chose the nearest primary which was 3 form entry. But when after an unsuccessful nursery year, reception and Y1, we moved him to a tiny sch 12 miles away - only 100 children in the whole sch. He loved it and was a different child from day one, despite the long journey and not knowing a soul when he started.

2. I would have begun the specific sch prep conversations much later, maybe just a week or two before sch started, combined with something really distracting such as being on holiday. Then he wd have had less time to overthink it.

3. If he had to go to the 3 form entry sch, if poss, I wd have sent him for mornings only for the first half term.

Ok, I painted a dismal picture with the first part of my post, but the same DS is now 16 and at 6th form college - happy, successful and loving doing A levels. Wishing you and yr son lots of luck smile

smellyboot Wed 11-Jan-17 11:45:37

Don't assume all 3 form are like that however. Ours is, and has a seperate entrance for Reception, own playground and outside classroom and they go to the canteen on their own before everyone else. They live in a lovely reception bubble. They don't see the older children much at all.
The curriculum is very play based so at ours its like an extension of nursery. No desks, lots of 'topic areas' to interact in, loads of fun activities, lots of choice about topic areas to use, lots of 'trips' to library, park etc to explore topics. And phonics each morning on the carpet. Even the cryers settle quite quickly!

smellyboot Wed 11-Jan-17 11:47:18

Our is 3 form that should say with 90 in nursery also. 3 form is the norm in our area and all have similar set up

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