Tips for Anxious Children Starting Preschoolby Carlie Mullaney
Here in England, we have recently received our school places for children starting reception, for some parents, this will be a sigh of relief as they no longer have childcare fees to pay, or their fees will be dramatically slashed. However, some parents will find this an extremely difficult time and a process that is not so straight forward.
I never, in my wildest dreams thought my 4-year-old would struggle when starting school. I never once thought he would suffer from stomach ache and for him to be pretending he had a sore head or witness him throwing up at the thought of attending school.
My eldest child is a summer-born baby, born August 2nd 2015 and he merely scrapes the cut off date for reception 2019. He has always been a shy child who lacked confidence when speaking to strangers or being in social situations. Due to him being compulsory school age this year we decided to start him in the early years unit of our desired school. I thought, “great, this will be amazing, a head start to settle him into the setting.” Well wasn’t I wrong?
September rolled around and we took him to a settling in session, he cried, cried and you guessed it, cried again. It was horrible. I preserved until he was hysterically upset, and we left together. At this point, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I needed to come up with a plan and figure out some coping mechanisms for him.
- Find something that will make them feel safe, for us this was spraying my perfume on his sleeve so that if he felt worried, he could simply smell his sleeve and it brought him a huge deal of comfort.
- Reassurance, this seems like such an obvious one but when you’re in that situation when your child is screaming at you, you automatically go into fight or flight mode, for me it was always flight. I HATED putting him in the situation and I would say, “ok let’s try again tomorrow” which personally made things worse. Keep reassuring them that Mum/Dad will be back, and they are not being left forever.
- Make an after-school plan, this really helped us. After Archies first full day we had planned to go to the toy shop and for some food at his favourite food place, I’m sure you can all guess where that was!
- Speak to your child, allow them to tell you their worries and put yourselves in their shoes.
The hardest point for us is definitely this, I like to think of myself as a very gentle parent and for me, this went against all my mothering instincts, but I knew deep down this was how we would beat the anxiety.
- Leave them to it. Write a list to their teacher/keyworker explaining their quirks and things they love to talk about. Tell them any worries you have and make sure they’re fully aware of everything about your child. When we left Archie we gave his teacher a list of things to help break the ice and conversations they could’ve had with him to help him relate to what they were speaking about. This helped tremendously. I handed the list over and I said, “Mummy will be back soon to pick you up to go to the toy shop, I love you little man” and I walked out. It broke my heart, I won’t lie but in that moment that’s when he realised he will be ok, his teacher took him off by himself and sat him down with an iPad so he wasn’t feeling overwhelmed with the whole classroom, she spoke to him about Mr Bean cars (mini coopers) these are his favourite! Within 15 minutes the tears where gone and he was coping just fine.
If you have any questions or would like to any more advice on starting your anxious baby at school, please feel free to contact me. I’m more than happy to help!