How can we help DS with separation anxiety (10 years old and in year 6)(14 Posts)
DS is 10 years old and in year 6. He has always suffered with separation anxiety. He cried every day when dropped off at pre-school and, for the whole of reception and year 1 the teacher had to hold on to him so that I could leave the classroom or he would just cling on to me. Note, that he was fine when his dad or the childminder took him to school, he only cried when it was me who took him. In year 2 he stopped crying but he often ran back out to me after going into class. Years 3 and 4 were much better and he was fine in year 5 until he was having trouble with some of the boys in his class. A few days into year 6, he started showing signs of anxiety. He was getting stomach aches, loose bowel movements and feeling sick. He started crying and getting very distressed when it was time to go into class. At its worst he was actually sick at school when the bell rang to go in. His birthday is in August and, emotionally he is very immature, although in other ways he seems more mature than the older boys in his class. I think the separation anxiety may have been triggered by the move from year 5 to 6, which in his school is quite a jump. Right from the start they give them jobs and responsibilities and the workload is much higher. Except for break and lunch, they are working from as soon as they get into class until 3:15. They pack so much in that he says that the time goes really quickly. DS said that it was much more relaxed in year 5. Note that his teacher says he is absolutely fine once he has settled into class.
The school has requested assistance from Early Help but they have told them to contact the school nurses. We are currently waiting to hear from them. In the meantime, DS continues to cry when I drop him off at school, which is not a good start to the day. It has also increased my stress which has resulted in a flare up of IBS and tension headaches. DH is taking him to school whenever he can but this isn't something he can do long-term. I'm really worried about when he goes to his residential trip in June, especially as he has never stayed away from home without us before. I am more worried about his transition to secondary school.
Do you have any suggestions for what we can do to help DS while we wait for the school nurses to contact us? Even any stories of positive outcomes would help me right now.
DS is August and in Year 6. He is on the autistic spectrum but is high functioning. He is very intelligent and has lots of issues with social communication and friendships as he is quite quirky.
He suffers lots with anxiety.
We have written him some checklists to help reduce anxieties. Made him a clearer timetable so he knows exactly what you expect from the entire day including after school clubs. Also we've given him a key word do he can say it to his teacher and he can be let out of class to have movement breaks.
Does he have friends at school ?
We haven't tried checklists but we've tried setting expectations e.g. one hug and then you go into school or if you stay in the classroom and don't run back out again you'll get a reward etc. He agrees to this but when it's time to go in, his emotions take over and it all goes out of the window.
DS does have some friends but none that are best friends. It doesn't help that there are only 8 other boys in his year. He has had issues over the years with some of the boys refusing to play with him and name calling. He is very rarely invited to play at anyone else's house. We invite his friends round and the parents always say that they'll invite him round to their house but they never do. He's probably been invited to 3 parties since reception. He often says that no one likes him, although his teachers say he is popular and well-liked but I've not seen any evidence of this. Recently they had to write a poem about one of their friends for homework and it made me sad when he said that he didn't think anyone would write one about him.
Could you consider home education? It seems like school is the issue.
Unfortunately that's not an option stargirl. I work full time and can't even afford to go part time. Also, it's hard enough to get DS to do his homework. I know that he wouldn't take it seriously if I was teaching him.
Could the teacher let him into class early to do a 'special' job each morning? pencil sharpening, writing the days tasks on the board etc. It might be easier not waiting around to go in.
I would work on the staying away before the residential - could he stay at grandparents/cousins etc a few times, so he would be in a familiar place with well known people. Obviously with the promise that you would collect him anytime he wanted.
Does he do any activities outside of school? Something like Scouts might help him get to know other children in a more relaxed atmosphere. Or some sort of sport where it is more structured and he wouldn't have to be too social.
We had this, but not quite so bad, with DD2 on and off throughout primary.
What worked best for DD was having a transition cuddly toy to take in with her, in her pocket or bag. It was something safe from home and she could just put her hand in and squeeze it to feel safer, without having to take it out for others to see. (In fact she took it to secondary (y8) the other day for the same reason.) Another transition object can be something with your perfume on.
Her residential was in y5 and she was very concerned about it. It was 'overseas' (Isle of Wight) so hard to get to her quickly. The school were fantastic in the run up, upbeat and reassuring. She was put with the teacher she knew best. She was allowed 'extra' cuddly toys (it was meant to be 1 each but she took 3). We left notes in her bag so she could feel 'in touch'. She was a bit wobbly on the morning they left but went and had a great time. End y7 she then went to Paris with secondary, again being very well looked after by the staff.
Seeline - DS goes to breakfast club now, so I just drop him off and go but, unfortunately he still cries. It's the separating from me that's the problem. He says he feels sad when he has to leave me. He doesn't do any activities outside school. He's never been interested and has never liked me leaving him anywhere except at a friend's house. I'll suggest Scouts to him and see how he feels about that.
TeenTimesTwo - The transition object could work. I'll see if there's anything of mine that he can put in his pocket.
poor lad. I wonder whether he's got any specific fears that he's not articulating or quite clear on himself, e.g. that you might die or leave home when he's at school? i had similar myself as a child. You mention your own health so could he be worried about that? i actually don't think it's so uncommon at that pre-adolescent age, when they maybe feel admitting to such fears would be 'silly' but are actually more aware of loss and death than a younger child.
I think a special object is a great idea.
My ds is much younger but he has always suffered with separation anxiety.Its heart wrenching for parents,I really hope you find some good strategies for your ds to help him.If it’s a school issue would you consider moving him?
It seems like a very academic demanding school and perhaps it doesn't suit his personality on top of of not being big enough to meet other boys
Maybe he will be happier in a more relax, bigger school where he can enjoy being a child.
Have you asked him why he is worried about?
"DS does have some friends but none that are best friends. It doesn't help that there are only 8 other boys in his year. He has had issues over the years with some of the boys refusing to play with him and name calling. He is very rarely invited to play at anyone else's house. We invite his friends round and the parents always say that they'll invite him round to their house but they never do. He's probably been invited to 3 parties since reception. He often says that no one likes him, although his teachers say he is popular and well-liked but I've not seen any evidence of this. Recently they had to write a poem about one of their friends for homework and it made me sad when he said that he didn't think anyone would write one about him."
This is very sad; it doesn't seem like the right environment for him, no wonder he is anxious and crying. He is unhappy in this school.
My reaction is that he has no attachment to anyone and with only 7 other boys who do not appear to bond with him, I can see how school must be a real trial for him. Why on earth could you not have moved him to a school where a wider circle of friends might have been available? You have not really listened to him in my view and it’s too late now for primary.
Only 3 parties since YR would have been a big red flag to me. I know one of my DC was ostracised and we made arrangements to get away from the school as soon as we could. I think you have to keep on inviting children round, get him into scouts or other clubs and try and find a bigger pool of boys, somewhere!
He seems very old to be taking a keepsake into class. I also think you need to talk to the senco about this.
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