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Advice for removing wailing Yr 1 DS from my person at the start of the school day...

(27 Posts)
saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 10:58:42


As you can tell from the tone of my title, I'm scraping the bottom of what was a vast barrel of sympathy for my DS who has severe separation anxiety on being left at school.

At breakfast and on the journey in we have displays of reluctance to go, but its as I have to leave him in the class room we get the wailing.

He is genuinely fearful of every new situation the day brings (eg new teachers in the class, going to assembly all of which set him off). He's allowed to sit next to the TA, has a yr 6 friend to look after him in assembly and the teachers do the best they can when managing a class of 30.

We've talked with him lots to see if there's anything specific (no one thing - simply each new scenario throws him) tried bribery (much covetted lego watch and uninterupted mummy time)and threats (the Wii has gone away).

He is one of the youngest in his class andhas always suffered from separation anxiety at nusery and foundation - but this is on a new level.

Its emotionally exhausting for us all and its dreadful to see him in such a pickle.

Any suggestions for making the transition into the class room less stressful for him?

I ralise its only day 14. It would be great to also hear from anyone else who has been through this - especially if you can honestly assure me it does get better....

Thanks in advance.


We are way past the "bye darling and quick exit" strategies as he refuses to go into the class without me and then has to be physically removed from me, before anyone suggests that one.

OrmIrian Mon 21-Sep-09 11:01:07

Poor you sad I had this problem for years wth DS#2. The one thing that helped a lot was to ask for the teachers help. Get her to take him into the classroom early and give him a daily task to do while she goes and gets the other children in. IME it's the moment of parting itself that causes the grief - if you can ease the stress of that it helps.

katiestar Mon 21-Sep-09 11:10:59

Do the staff say how long it takes him to settle once you have gone ?

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 11:12:48

We tried the getting in early tactic and being given a task. It worked for a day but the next day he was wise to it.

I had hoped today would be better as he really enjoyed school on friday but with the weekend break. Sadly the TA (who he has bonded with) wasn't in the class when school started and that was the trigger for today's 45 minute episode.

It's very hard for the teacher as she has a whole class to look after, but I think I am going to have to talk to her about she might be able to take a more active role, as the longer it takes, the more more wound up the poor chap gets.

Hope you've now cracked it with DS#2

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 11:14:11

Hi Katiestar

it really varies. it can take 5-10 mins (As opposed to the 30 secs at nursery) and he is then crying again at various times in the day, whenever there is a significant change such as a new teacher or change of room.

wannaBe Mon 21-Sep-09 11:38:26

If you do shove him in the door and walk away, does he calm down quicker?

Children will often be worse when their parent is there, because if the parent stays then they are essentially getting what they want ie the parent is still there, iyswim. I learned very quickly with my ds that the longer i stayed, the more upset he became, so me staying was counter productive. So as hard as it was, I would hand him over to a nursery keyworker (when he was at nursery) and the TA (when we went through it in reception) and they would take him in while I legged it out of sight. In order to do this you obviously do need the assistance of the teacher/the TA, to literally take him into class and keep him there so you can go. Perhaps even get him to go in last so they can take him straight in and shut the door. You staying clearly isn't working, so I would try the getting him into class, and if that means a TA has to physically take him in then so be it.

Alternatively, could you get someone else to take him to school? (just for a while obviously). A friend did this with her ds who cried when going in, she found that when someone that wasn't her took him to school, he didn't cry because she wasn't there to cry for, iyswim.

Fwiw when my ds went through this in reception it is the teacher who can take the credit for breaking the cycle. I bribed, threatened, got cross, made promises.. you get the idea, and then one day the teacher said to him that if he cried the next day he would have to forego his golden time. grin so I aided the process by going to the shops with him before school and buying some biscuits for them all to eat during golden time (after all he wasn't going to cry today), and he ran in without a backward glance and we have never looked back.

I do sympathize, it can be horrible when a child is like that.

deaddei Mon 21-Sep-09 11:43:27

God I sympathise....ds in reception no problem, but EVERY day in yr 1 he clung to my leg like a limpet. The ta prised him off and dragged him in- he settled quite quickly.
I was chair of pta, so if I was in school (virtually daily) I had to crawl on my hands and knees past his classroom so he wouldn't see me and run out.
In the summer holidays, I said I hoped he wasn't going to behave like that in September, and he replied "no I won't because I'll be year 2."
And he was fine.
It's awful- other mothers looking at you askance, I used to almost kick him off me. And it made me so cross- I wasn't upset-because I knew he was fine once in, and he loved school.
All I can say is, it WILL stop....good luck!

colditz Mon 21-Sep-09 11:47:01

I cured this with ds1 by bribing with sweets.

As we walked into the school gate, I would say "Line up nicely and I will bring sweets at hometime!" Discuss this beforehand so he is calm when he hears it.If he doesn't line up nicely, no sweets, and tell him WHY no sweets.

Now, this does mean for a while your child will be getting sweets every day - but 'sweets' can mean 4 or 5 chocolate buttons. Not ideal but they're hungry after school anyway, and it does work.

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 12:01:05

wannaBe - I think you are right in that the longer I'm there, the worse the final parting is. Both the TA and teacher are new so I think they may be a bit freaked by the whole thing (but hiding it well), but I think I will ask them to be even firmer at the point of handover as I think we need to develop some consistent departure routine that minimises time/possibility for fuss.

deaddei - poor you. I have had to be very strict about once I'm gone, I'm gone - so returning to bring in forgotten items has also involved my crawling to his drawer to avoid being spotted. Other mothers being very sympathetic but I don't blame them if soon they start to wonder what impact the disruption is having on their kids.

colditz. I'm all for bribes rewards. Its got to be short term rewards for him to work. The teachers have sweetly got him is own personal smiley chart in the class room but nothing really seems to be working.

Anyone know at what point it tips beyond "normal" and understandable separation anxiety into something that we need to really get help to address?

Its beginning to spill into other bits of life, so won't leave my side at birthday parties and is unsettled at night. I do feel for him.

OrmIrian Mon 21-Sep-09 12:03:32

saski - sorry I should have said DS1 nor ds2. DS#1 took 2.5 years to get over it sad. And I agree the distraction technique isn't a final solution but it helped for a while. He just seemed to grow out of it. But in truth he never really enjoyed primary school - he's in secondary now and is like a new child.

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 12:07:26

OrmIrian - poor you, was it anything in particular he didn't like or just school in general. So glad to hear secondary is working out.

I'm feeling baffled as he some lovely friends in the class, its a small school where (apart from 30 secs each day as I left him) he was very happy in Foundation.

Maybe its just still early days and I need to hang in there a bit longer (but not sure I'd have your patience to wait until he's 11!!!)

OrmIrian Mon 21-Sep-09 12:10:25

Oh no it was only until half way though yr2. He was fine after that. Thank god. Just never ery enthusiastic. There was no real reason I could see - he had plenty of friends, very nice teachers, he didn't struggle with the work, nu bullying. But he is the kind of person that gets himself worked up about a situation and then struggles to get in into perspective (a bit like his mum hmm)

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 12:32:33

Sounds familiar! It would almost be easier if there was something we could identify something external as the root of the problem but it seems to be simply down to him being a very fearful person.

I can also get myself in a tizz worrying about how he's going to cope with exams and the other stresses life will throw at him, but I know I should leave that one til and if we need to cross that bridge....

showmethewaytothenextwhiskybar Mon 21-Sep-09 12:37:45

dd was like this last year in y1 - not all the time, it would come and go so there'd be a couple of weeks at a time when she'd be fine then out of the blue it would return

as you say it's emotionally exhausting for everyone concerned

what made me feel a bit better was the fact that once there, she patently obviously loved being at school - had lots of friends, always well-behaved, threw herself wholeheartedly into every activity, flying academically - it was just the moment of parting which caused the grief

she's 2 weeks into y2 and seems much better - she still clings onto my hand as they line up but will usually let go before they reach the stairs, so I'm now relatively confident that we're on our way up

butmummy Mon 21-Sep-09 12:41:54

What about dropping him off to breakfast club if the school has one so that he is dropped off whilst its still quiet and he has some time to settle in the school but before school starts iyswim.

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 12:42:52

thanks for your message smtwttnw, glad to hear things imnprove.

I had consoled myself for the first week that it was just the point of separation that triggered the tears but I then got reports that it was happening throughout the day. I just hope that as the routine becomes familiar he'll find it earier.

mackerel Mon 21-Sep-09 12:46:23

My DS and DD had a sim. difficulty. My DD was pulled off me every day for quite a long time and we did find the quicker i left the better it was. what we did do though with both, on the recommendation of a teacher, was to give them something of mine to put in their pocket or book bag. this turned out to be a tissue with a spray of my perfume on. It didn't solve the problem but i ahve to say it helped. You have my full sympathy.

scattyspice Mon 21-Sep-09 12:56:28

saskipops - I'm having trouble too. Ds like yours always a clinger but seemed to get better, then got worse again. I don't have an answer but with ds it seems to coincide with the realisation that nothing in life is permenant. He has been asking alot about death, who in the family might die and when (Great Gran is 99!). What happens when you die. When will happen to him when he grows up, who will he marry etc. I think its worse at this time of yer as they move into a new school year and see themselves growing up. Ds tells me that he doesn't want to grow up sad. He hates the moment of separation and says that when he thinks about me at school it makes him cry, then he gets cross with himself for crying and spends all day worrying that he is going to think about me and cry!

I just try to do as you do and be sympathetic but firm.

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 13:12:09

butmummy - hmm sounds counterintuitive to make him go to school for longer, but I think there might be something in your suggestion. They are about to start a breakfst club so I can think on that one if things don't improve.

and group hug with mackerel and scattyspice. I'll try the something-of-mine technique too (would amputating my leg that he's attached himself to at the school door be a step too far?)

ParisFrog Mon 21-Sep-09 13:15:25

I started doing this to my mum half way through reception. No one could understand why...until a friend pointed out that my Grandad (who lived with us) had died a month earlier and I had obviously just worked out he was never coming back...

Has something happened in the family which could mean he doesn't feel safe and secure? He sounds stressed at new situations which he doesn't control. I don't have much good advice, but maybe you could work on surprising him, but in a safe and fun way?

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 13:18:08

its a good thought. we had been meant to move town in the summer (but the purchase fell through). I asked him if all the talk about moving had unsettled him and he said "No I WANTED to move school." so bang went that theory. couldn't tell me what it was about the current school he didn't like though...

mackerel Mon 21-Sep-09 13:22:24

I have been there with the amputation thought but i think the perfume infused tissue slightly more acceptable at the school gate! my DS did it for a half a term in yr.1, DD (hold your breath) did it from nursery all the way to the middle term of year 1 - sorry not what you want to hear. By the end of it I had no sympathy and it was awful, the teacher peeling her off me. Her teacher was fab - never had a single eye-rolling in frustration moment. she was very kind but ultimately - after a whole year of it! - pretty firm.

Toffeepopple Mon 21-Sep-09 13:23:02

At our school there is a particular teacher in charge of reluctant arrivals.

She is a gorgeous, lovely grandmother of a lady and tearful schoolcomers get to go to her and she gets them to class when they are ready.

Her schedule is worked out so she is free in the mornings. The school nurse (whatever they are called now) is also on hand.

Could you ask the school whether there is someone different he could be handed to?

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 13:28:19

what a fantastic job title Toffeepopple. I'd love for there to be a "Teacher in charge of reluctant arrivals" at our school.

A TA from his reception class eventually took pity on me this morning and took him off my hands (his wails can be heard all around the school) so perhaps she could help, although I suspect she'll already have her hands full in reception...

saskipops Mon 21-Sep-09 13:32:04

mackerel - I'd run out of limbs fairly quickly I guess. I've had over four years of it so the thought it might end the middle of next term actually isn't too unbearable!

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