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DS does not want to start school...

(13 Posts)
PippiLongstromp Wed 05-Jul-17 09:45:45

My DS turned 4 in February and is doing well in pre-school, especially academically, he wants to learn, he can sit still and listen, he can hold a pen correctly, knows and writes a lot of the letters and numbers. He is also proficient at getting himself dressed, going to the toilet etc. However, emotionally he has always been quite sensitive, although he has good friends at pre-school, he really dislikes meeting new people and in new situations tends to hang on me, suck his fingers or t-shirt, whimper and cry. He has been like that since he was a baby to be honest. So now that he is starting school in September, we have had two settling in sessions and he has hated it from start to finish. None of the other children had their parents there (admittedly many of them know each other already) but I had to stay there the entire time both times. My DS had moments of being extremely upset, proper sobbing in my lap, it was heartbreaking to watch sad.
The question I am really struggling with is whether he will be fine once he starts schoold, or whether he is actually just not ready emotionally/socially. He says he doesn't want to go to pre-school or to school at all, he wants to stay at home, and I think he means that from the bottom of his heart.
It is not really an option for him to stay at home, even if we chose to delay his start in school to when it is legally required (April next year I think), but I guess if I thought he would actually be a bit emotionally damaged by starting school too early, then I would take that very seriously indeed.
Has anyone struggled in the same way with theirs, and what did you do? Did you have children who were similar but settled in just fine? Or children who actually weren't fine? Am I being to worried, is this PFB syndrome??

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brilliotic Wed 05-Jul-17 15:17:12

My DS was similar in that he was totally ready, academically, to start school. He was also quite mature in an 'able to sit still and listen, wanting to do things right' way. Emotionally he was mature too, confident, good at managing his feelings. Nevertheless, he initially found separating from me at drop off a bit hard - but nothing that couldn't be managed by going gently.
However, he was 'socially' immature, inasmuch as he didn't know how to 'be' in large groups of children without close adult supervision. Which needn't have been a problem by itself - this was what we were hoping for him to learn in his reception year. However, circumstances then were that there was a bit of a bully in his class who was nearly a year older and 'experienced' in group status 'games' and DS was an easy target.

Now being bullied is terrible whenever it happens but at just four, and as a first experience of social peer interactions (outside of situations with a lot more adult guidance e.g. nursery school), I believe it is indeed strongly 'emotionally harmful'. Basically he learned that that is how children behave towards each other. It was very painful to watch and took a lot of time and hard work to get over this (some effects I believe are still there, nearly three years on, e.g. some social anxiety).

In hindsight I wish we had deferred his entry to e.g. February. Another child did this, and settled beautifully into the class where all the nasty hierarchy struggles had been completed already.

We had considered deferring, but like you the circumstances at home were such that it would have 'cost' us a lot. We really needed him to be at school full time. If we had known the cost to him, we would have made it possible somehow.
However, we were unlucky in that we encountered this bully who targeted DS. It could have turned out fine.

So a bit different than your situation in that our worries about DS were about something different. What I would say, in your situation, if you do decide to send him to school from September, then talk to the school beforehand, really emphasise his issues, and discuss ways to proceed. It is likely that school will think won't take your concerns very seriously initially - probably every other parent is worried about things like this, most children end up being fine. But if you really feel your DS would profit from e.g. a gentler start, then don't let them convince you otherwise! If everything goes well you can always move to 'standard'. The other way, yes he would probably be ok after a while, but maybe only after emotional damage has occurred. And are you happy for him to be just 'ok'? When he could be doing really well and being happy?

At the end of the day, listen to the school/teachers but if you are convinced that a gentler/delayed start would be better for your child, then fight for it.

A friend's daughter started part-time because the parents were convinced that she couldn't cope with whole days. By the first half-term she was asking to stay for the afternoons. Ok so maybe she would have been fine going full time from the start! However, there was no harm done by going gently. The other way round might have been ok as well, but equally might not!

PippiLongstromp Wed 05-Jul-17 19:43:50

Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate it. What you say about bullying is just horrifying, I didn't think that even went on at that age! I might try and speak to his key worker at pre-school, to see what she thinks about his maturity, or lack thereof.
Does anyone else have experiences, similar or different? Any stories appreciated, or even a bit of a hand hold, I think I'm getting far to upset about this...

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Crumbs1 Wed 05-Jul-17 19:54:29

I'm pretty sure he'll settle fine and is just unsettled at the idea of change. He would probably have been fine if you left during visits and remaining made it a bigger deal than it was. I firmly believe we need to allow children to learn to cope with their emotional responses rather than rushing to pacify them as this undermines their resilience.

PippiLongstromp Wed 05-Jul-17 21:04:47

Yeah I was very much in two minds about it. I'm usually quite tough and no nonsense with my children, but there was just something about his reaction the first time we were there and the panic on his face the second time, I had not seen that level of despair in him before!

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BubblesBuddy Wed 05-Jul-17 21:37:43

I would like to reassure you that most Reception classes do not have bullies. It is rare that a child is bullied by a Street-wise YR child.

I would tend to agree that you should not have stayed. You are not going to be able to stay with him in school. You could defer but he is then denied the chance to make friends from day1. That is not always the best solution either.

He does now know he can turn to you and you will always be there which just cannot be sustained. Can you negotiate another visit to YR? Could he have a staggered introduction next term? What does the teacher think is the best way forward? Some children are not ready for change but it can't be put off forever.

He does seem to be able to tug at your heart strings but helping him to mature is part of your job. He knows how to push your buttons from the bottom of his heart. Why didn't he know any other children? You are rather giving me the impression that if he does not want to do something then he doesn't do it.

brilliotic Wed 05-Jul-17 22:27:30

He does now know he can turn to you and you will always be there which just cannot be sustained.

You see, when we teach children to swim, we want them to learn to swim by themselves, without aids, without a parent standing there holding them up. And yet we don't throw them in at the deep end right from the start, with the logic that they will eventually have to swim by themselves anyway, and us staying with them and supporting them cannot be sustained.

I don't believe that resilience is learnt by being put into situations where you are in over your head. Situations you are developmentally not ready to cope with.

I think that 4 year olds SHOULD know they can turn to their parents and their parents will be there for them. How sad for a child not to have that basic sense of security and safety! Just because they eventually will have to become independent, doesn't mean that we should force them into situations they are not ready for.

I am a believer in the saying that you have to be dependent first, before you can become independent.

Truly I think although schools are geared up for this kind of difficulty, in general, at the end of the day only you can tell if your child is ready to face this challenge (in which case it will help them to build resilience) or not (in which case it may well cause them emotional harm). Listen to the teacher, find out how they like to handle things. Especially if they have a 'we know best, we have seen 100s of children and they all cope in the end' attitude vs a 'every child is different, we are happy to work with you the parents to ensure the child has a great start at school' attitude.

Incidentally, I was the only parent to stay at DS' settling in morning, three years ago now. It kind of happened accidentally but it turned out to be a good thing. When school started properly some 9 weeks later, DS was one of few new reception starters that DIDN'T cry and cling. Maybe because he was confident that if he really needed me, I would be there?!

PippiLongstromp Thu 06-Jul-17 09:05:59

brilliotic I would tend to agree with you. I definitely sensed that my DS was panicking and that it would not have been the right thing to do to throw him in at the deep end, as you say. However, he does know that I will not be going in with him when he starts school for real.
The reason he doesn't know anyone there already is because we are moving to a new area. Many of the other kids know each other from pre-school or through their parents etc.
I think I am beginning to see that DS's main issue is indeed around it being a change, and a room full of people he doesn't know. I think once he does get to know them, he will be as fine as he currently is in pre-school. So although he is never going to be the confident, outgoing extrovert, he is able to make friends and enjoy being in a group there, and I also know he is able to stand up for himself to others. And what people tell me is that many children do not love going to school in the morning, but they are actually happy once they are there. So I think this is probably my DS's situation.
Thank you so much for you responses everyone, I feel much better about the whole thing actually.

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jamdonut Thu 06-Jul-17 19:31:18

I expect some will disagree with me, but often Mum staying makes the situation more difficult. It is better to let staff get on with settling them in, it's what we do. But we are a huggy , pick them up sort of school. I know some schools don't do that sort of thing but we believe that young children sometimes need that sort of interaction .
My youngest son had difficulty being with other children as he never went to play groups or pre school and found it difficult to deal with other children. But I was encouraged to just leave, hard as it was...and he always came out smiling in the end!

PippiLongstromp Thu 06-Jul-17 20:59:41

And maybe that would have been the same with my DS, but maybe it wouldn't. I did what I felt was right at the time. What did worry me was whether he might not be ready to start school socially, knowing that he is and was always a bit of a timid soul, and whether deferring school start might be better for him. I was looking for other people's experiences with deferring or not deferring and whether they felt they had made the right decision or not.

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thesandwich Thu 06-Jul-17 21:04:55

Could you find ways for him to spend time with any of the other children over summer? Are there activities/ clubs he could go to? Perhaps use summer as a way to boost his confidence in social situations- library groups, anything with new people? Could school suggest anyone to meet up with?

Dinglingding Thu 06-Jul-17 21:15:10


My DS sounds quite like your little boy ( and is a beginning of April birthday). We did have a rough few weeks at the beginning of starting reception which I found very hard ( so holding onto the bannister hysterical about going into school sad). We were lucky that he had a lovely teacher though who I trusted, plus the school had a policy that if they felt a child was really distressed they would ring the parent. They even let parents stay for a little while sometimes.

The good news is that after 2 weeks he completely settled and loves school and I've never had a complaint yet about not wanting to go! He is having to move schools over the summer for Y1 and even though he has matured a bit I'm expecting I may get a repeat performance.

Some of his friends do still struggle a little bit with going in from time to time - I think some children just find school a little more difficult than others. They all seem happy when you see them in the day and come out smiling though!

BubblesBuddy Thu 06-Jul-17 21:48:58

brilliotic - every single child is dependent first! The skill of parenting is getting them to move to independence. When starting school is a known date it is possible to try and work towards going to school and enjoying it. We all know that a child will not be with Mum at school. Most schools expect to integrate children into the class and are experts at it. I cannot see how hovering is going to help in the long run. There are lots of ways to promote confidence when leaving Mum and most of us have left a crying child at some stage.

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