Friday, November 5, 2010

3 year old daughter hates school

Questioner: Suzanne

Subject: 3 year old daughter hates school

QUESTION: I have a 3yo daughter (only child) who has been attending a moms morning out program a few days per week since she was 6mo. She experienced some normal separation anxiety issues when she was younger but all in all she has seemingly really enjoyed this experience. About a month ago she moved from the daycare side to the preschool side of the center which she had been eagerly anticipating. Some of the kids in her class are friends from her previous class and some are new to her.

The school tells me that my daughter is very passive at school(this is not how we see her at home but I know that kids often act very differently in different situations) and that several of the new girls in her class are pretty assertive. She seems to really like her teacher. Since this transition she has become very upset about the very thought of going to school.

She says that she doesn't want to go to school,that she doesn't like her friends and that she just wants to stay at home with me. She cries in the am getting ready, when I drop her off, sometimes during the day while she is there (The teacher says this doesn't happen alot but some most days.), in the afternoon and evenings and even on the weekends.

She missed almost 3 weeks of school due to strep throat and a tonsillectomy and the entire time she was at home she would worry about when she had to go back to school. She acts as though the thought of school, going to school, etc. is very traumatic.

I can find no evidence of an event that would have caused this change in her behavior. What do you make of it? Is this normal developmentally? Is this something that we need to push through and make her go because she is testing me to see if I will just give into her wishes to stay home with me or should I take her out of school for awhile and let her start back at some later date?

I know that she will have to go to school at 5 but what about now? Another thing, no other preschool children live around our house and most all of the parents of other preschoolers that I know work so frequent play dates are hard to arrange.

Almost all of her available social interaction with her peer group occurs at school. I am completely at a loss as to how best to handle this situation that is becoming very stressful for our entire household. Any insight would be very much appreciated.

ANSWER: Dear Suzanne:

I am not very traditional about children going to school at a certain age. Not all children are ready for school at the same age and much has been made about children needing to be socialize. There are many people who were socialized at school who turned out to be less civilized.

Sounds like she is not ready for this transition yet. Can you put her back in the daycare side where she was doing so well? Seems if she was doing well there before then going back maybe a good idea until she seems more willing to go to pre-school. Not all children who go to kindergarten when they are 5 (not all states have compulsory laws for kindergarten either) are ready to go to kindergarten. They maybe smart enough and yet their emotional development may not be ready for the transition yet. The best way to parent is to really pay attention to them and how they are reacting not to what others expect of you or tell you. TRUST your instincts.

I also suggest a great book called "The Sensitive Child." Possibly she is more emotionally sensitive than some of the other children her own age. Don't worry so much about her socializing as she seems to be communicating a preference to you. At this age socializing is not as big of thing to their development as is attention from you!

Socializing becomes more of an issue as they get older and as I stated previously there is a difference between socializing and becoming civilized.

One last item....she is not to old for a baby/child massage. Try massaging her at night when she goes to bed as part of her night time routine. If she is experiencing any anxiety this can be very relaxing and besides who doesn't benefit from a massage?

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

--- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you so much for this info. Do you know the author of the book, "The Sensitive Child", that you suggested? I have checked at Books A Million and they do not have that title but they do have "The Highly Sensitive Child". I assume that this is not the book that you were recommending. Thank you again for your assistance.

Answer: You have the appropriate title. It has been so many years ago I misquoted. You are very welcome. Feel free to call me if you have more questions! Kay