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AIBU to quit preschool due to DS's separation anxiety?

16 replies

chocolateygoo · 19/04/2013 09:49

DS has extreme separation anxiety, always has since 6 months old. When I went back to work, we initially tried a childminder but after 6 weeks 2 days a week he was only stopping crying when he was asleep! Anyway as a result I ended up quitting work and DS has only ever been looked after by me, DH or his grandparents.

Anyway fast forward a couple of years, DS has just turned 3. He's been going to preschool one morning a week since last october (aged 2.5), but still isn't settled in. There's been a couple of good weeks where he's said bye-bye and run in happily, but the rest of the time he's cried for the majority of the time there. Its not that he cries for 5 mins then settles to play. He really does cry the whole time.

This term we've tried going up to 2 mornings a week to see if that helps him. However its just getting worse. Now he's being really angry and having temper tantrums there screaming out mummy mummy mummy.

I don't know what to do. He doesn't qualify for free 15 hours a week till September, and I can't afford for him to go more often than twice a week, as I'm still not working (SAHM to younger DCs). I need the break from him and think he needs to learn that its ok to be apart from me. He can't start school and behave like this!

On the other hand though he's so unhappy and I feel like such a bad parent for doing this to him. He doesn't play with any of the other children and doesn't seem to be getting anything out of it, and its been going on for over 6 months now. The staff are trying their best, I don't blame them at all and don't think changing to another setting would make any difference. WIBU to just give up and quit? Sad

OP posts:

HairyGrotter · 19/04/2013 09:57

Have the staff spoken to you about this? This seems an extreme form of separation anxiety, I'd be seeking some advice from the qualified staff, if I'm honest.


yaimee · 19/04/2013 10:01

I completely understand how upsetting this must be for you, my only concern would be that at some point he will have to start school and this won't be an option. so you really have to decide whether he would react better to having a longer time to get used to the idea of being left, and if this is the case then it might be beat to persevere with preschool, or whether you think he is too young at the moment and will react better in 6 months time, in which case you should withdraw him for the time being.
I don't know whether you do this already, but perhaps him getting used to playing with other children in a setting such as mums and tots would be helpful, he would be reassured that you were there but you could withdraw further back every time until he is playing with the other children!


Dumpylump · 19/04/2013 10:05

Well you're right when you say that this state of affairs can't continue when he starts school! It must be very wearing for you too surely?
Have you thought about speaking to your gp with a view to seeing if there is any help you can access?
I don't know that withdrawing him from nursery is the best thing - although in your shoes I would be every tempted - because at some point he will hopefully realise that actually, this is a nice place, and mummy does come back like she said she would.
Withdrawing him effectively teaches him that crying and crying eventually gets him what he wants....although I totally appreciate that he is not doing this in a tantrum.


livinginwonderland · 19/04/2013 10:07

does he feel like you're palming him off onto nursery so that you can spend time his siblings? i know he's only small, but he probably feels a bit pushed out as his siblings are getting time with you that he's no longer getting (due to his age and due to the fact that babies require a lot of attention).

try toddler groups so you can still be present and encourage play with other children, but still give him the reassurance that mummy is still there. his confidence should grow and you'll be able to leave him for longer.


Olbasoil · 19/04/2013 10:08

We had this with ds1. It is absolutely nightmare for everyone who is involved.


Stressedtothehilt · 19/04/2013 10:09

No advice whatsoever I'm afraid. My dd is 3.8 and exactly the same! She went to nursery full time age 13 months. Screamed all day and refused to eat for the whole day. Had to remove her. Same at childminders. She now attends a school preschool, she crys every morn but settles after ten mins, but its horrendous after half term break with ridiculously loud and prolonged screaming and clinging. She starts reception in Sept!
She sees Camhs and OT though so she gets outside help. I've started letting her take something small of mine in to look after which helps a bit


HappilyUnhinged · 19/04/2013 10:11

He doesn't want to go, and if you are at home, he doesn't have to go, why push it? You are upsetting him and you by pushing it. Try other things, do stuff slowly so he gets used to not being around you. Do you let him do things in one room of the house while you are in the other,for example? Build it slowly, there is absolutely no rush, IMO.


BenjaminButton172 · 19/04/2013 10:12

I can sympathise. My dd went through this a little although not as bad.

I think its good to start changing the situation now before he starts school. Have you spoken to the gp or health visitor?

This may sound harsh because your ds sounds like in a lot of distress but it is good to persevere and not give in to him so to speak because unless u are going to be home schooling him he needs to go to school. I felt like a horrible mum when my dd was going though this as i would always send her to school. Shes not as bad now. There is an odd day here and there when she doesnt want to go. It did help that the school staff were supportive.

If u can id suggest something like a weekly meeting with the nursery staff and maybe come up with a plan of things ur ds can do while he is there.


Kafri · 19/04/2013 10:15

It certainly does sound like an extreme case of separation anxiety.

This will be difficult with other kids at home but is there any way you can try leaving him for shorter times?

It may (i suspect will) take a fair bit of time but could you try something along the lines of leaving him for 10 mins and then going back in, then 15 mins and going back in and gradually increasing the time at whatever pace suits him. It may be that a whole morning is just far too long for him.
He may cry immediately of you start with the ten mins but then gradually as he realises 'actually, mummy wasn't gone for long, and did come back' he may just settle better.


Crinkle77 · 19/04/2013 10:16

I feel for you but you are not doing him any favours because as others have said you can't pull him out of school. Would it be possible to take him to nursery and stay for a while until he is settled then leave. Then after a while reduce the time you stay for and hopefully then he will be a bit more confident?


Eskino · 19/04/2013 10:35

He needs more time with you before he's ready to start being independent.

I completely agree with what HappilyUnhinged says.

Rather than forcing his independence, let him be ready in his own time.


chocolateygoo · 19/04/2013 13:10

Thanks everyone, interesting to see a range of opinions.

Re. settling in - the first two terms we stayed with him every session (DH took time of work as we were expecting it to be hard!) and gradually built up to longer and longer periods out of the room. However we can't do that anymore as DH can't take anymore time out of work, I can't stay with the younger kids in tow, and some of the other kids at preschool were finding it upsetting that someone's parent was there but theirs wasn't.

We've found a quicker goodbye at the door to be marginally less upsetting than if we go in with him, stay for ten mins then go. Staff advised us to just leave him to it now and not try to stay any more as they thought it might be confusing him that sometimes we stayed and sometimes we didn't.

He is also clingy around the house. If I'm in the kitchen and he's playing elsewhere he will bring his toys into the kitchen so he can 'see mummy'. If I'm in the toilet and close the door he will stand outside crying. If I nip upstairs for something he will run around the house crying 'where's mummy'. We go to playgroups or other people's houses to play most days, he stays within 2 feet of me at all times and often wants to sit on my lap. There's maybe 3 or 4 other children he's confident playing with, including his older cousin and his little sister. Its exhausting. I was kind of hoping that if he got used to being at preschool he would get less clingy at home too...

If I asked the GP or HV, what could they do to help? DS already sees a S&L therapist as he has a speech delay, I'm not sure about trying to get more professionals involved as I don't want to be seen as a parent who is obsessive about their child's behaviour IYKWIM! Olbasoil what happened with your DS in the end?

OP posts:

ItsAllGoingToBeFine · 19/04/2013 13:16

He's only wee. Don't try and force him to be independent, that will just make things worse.

At playgroup cuddle him and have him on your lap if that's what he wants. Play with him too. One day you will suddenly notice that he has played by himself for a bit.

Chill out. Relax. Don't make it an issue. Lots of cuddles.


shewhowines · 19/04/2013 13:17

I had one like that, still suffers from anxiety separation at night, but is a popular, sociable boy now.

He hated preschool 3x a week and trailed round after his friend who went with him. When he got the free funding, he went 5 times a week to a different setting, and whilst he still followed the same friend, he really settled in well.

I think it was a combination of the fact that he was slightly older, it was a different setting and it was 5x mornings, that helped.

I'd leave it and try again later, somewhere else, if I were you.


musicposy · 19/04/2013 13:18

DD2 was like this. It got impossible. She would just scream and scream when left and not stop.

In the end I pulled her out of preschool. I got lots of dire warnings about school from other mothers. The clinginess stopped once she was with me or DH or my mum (I worked part time) all day.

I delayed her school entry because she was not ready, in my opinion. She's an August birthday and was too young at just 4. We sent her in the Eater when she was about 4.8, but could have waited until the September - just I didn't want her going straight into Year 1.

She had no problems settling in to school at all. No tears, no clinginess, no upset. She just needed to be that year older.

I'm a great believer in not forcing children in these circumstances. I think it does more harm than good. Confidence and independence comes from security.


CloudsAndTrees · 19/04/2013 13:23

If you know he's unhappy at nursery and is spending the majority of his time there crying, then you would absolutely be doing the right thing by removing him.

He's only two, he has no need to be at nursery unless he's enjoying it and benefitting, which he clearly isn't.

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