Google+ Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: Mommy Dilemma - Separation Anxiety and Kindergarten: How Do We Help Kids Cope?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mommy Dilemma - Separation Anxiety and Kindergarten: How Do We Help Kids Cope?

My 5 year old Diva is having a lot of issues with separation anxiety. She has always been my more anxious child but things are definitely coming to a head lately and I fear her starting Kindergarten soon is the root cause. She has expressed fear over starting at a new school, not having any friends and being away from me for a longer period of time (especially since she knows her sister gets out early and will be home with me while she is still in school).

Anytime anyone talks to My Oldest Diva about Kindergarten she gets sullen and says she doesn't want to talk about it. I am overly positive with her about school - I am a teacher after all and I always loved school growing up! I have told her how much fun Kindergarten is, how she will learn wonderful new things, become an even better reader and make fabulous new friends.  I also repeatedly remind her that I will be there to pick her up at the end of her day and that I will even be volunteering in her classroom from time to time as well.

Nothing seems to lessen her anxiety and it is manifesting in all sorts of ways. She is having trouble sleeping at night and having trouble being apart from me.

I have spent quite a bit of time online researching separation anxiety in children and it seems that between age 5-6 there is a peak. It is very hard to deal with my Lil Diva's episodes when faced with them. She grabs onto my leg and won't let go, she screams, kicks, yells, cries and hits. I fear for her safety and my sanity as these episodes grow both more severe and increasingly more frequent.

Upon our return home from vacation, things have really come to a head. We shared a bed at night in our hotels and now that we are back home she is having trouble going to bed at night in her own room/bed.
It has become a nightly battle that is leaving us all cranky and exhausted.

My heart is heavy, my mind is worried and I have spent many moments feeling like a "Monster Mom" lately because I end up losing my patience. More than once I found myself yelling over her screams :( This is not the kind of mom I want to be.  Yet, I find myself in a place where I do not know what else to do when she is having these "fits" and screaming and crying.

Nothing seems to be working. I have taken "special" time to be with her, made sure to be positive and encouraging about her fears and my husband and I are really trying hard to be understanding when she gets one of these "attacks" but her fears seem to be overpowering our efforts at the moment. I am hopeful that once school begins - she will have fun and be alright but I am honestly beginning to dread that first day of school - I do not envision an easy or pretty sight.

As a teacher, I have gone through these moments but it is emotionally different when you are the mom & it's your child. I hate to see my baby suffering & feeling like I can not just "kiss it & make it better" like I do with her bumps & bruises.

So my question to you all is what I am I missing here? I there something I can be doing that I am not doing? Ideas? Advice? Suggestions?

Bern

5 comments:

  1. Can you ask the school and bring her to see her classroom a few times over the month of August? My mom was a kindergarten teacher and she always had parents coming in to show their child where the school was, where the classroom was, the cafeteria, the libray, etc.

    Maybe if she can see where she's going to go it may help with her fears.

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  2. Aurie - that would have been a fabulous option & definitely something I would have LOVED to do with her except that this is a brand new school and it is not even finished being built so it's not open yet :( I so wish it were but think they open their doors the week before and we are scheduled to go in and have an open house then so hopefully that will help a bit but until then - it's going to be hard :( Thank you for the idea - appreciate it!

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  3. This may make me Captain Obvious, but have you tried talking candidly with her about anxiety? Something along the lines of "It seems like you're really having a hard time right now. It makes me wonder if you're worried about starting kindergarten. What can we do to help all of us enjoy the rest of the summer, and to make kindergarten less scary?" (at a time when she is calm and feeling safe, not in the throes of a crisis, of course.) Kids never fail to amaze me with their own insight into their feelings, once we give them the space and the words. It might also open up a dialogue about specific things she may be worried about, that would never occur to you as an adult. (Example: a friend's 10 yr old was having horrific anxiety about sleepaway camp. It finally came out that she was worried she was going to be assigned a male cabin counselor. Once she knew that this simply WOULD NOT happen, she was calm and excited about camp again.)

    On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, she may just need a break from the whole topic of kindergarten. Maybe just stop talking about it for a few weeks (and ask friends and family members to do the same). Sometimes children feel so pressured by adults' expectations of children's Excitement! About starting! School! that it makes them even more worried. Does that make sense?

    Will keep thinking on this, and may be back with more thoughts. Hope this helps!

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  4. Thank you so much for your suggestions & insight. I think we might try the "break" from talking about the big "K" for awhile & see if that helps with some of the anxiety. Maybe she does feel pressured with all of us talking it up so much - I hadn't thought about that. Thank you.

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  5. Is there an opportunity for your Diva to meet some of the other kids that will be in her class? It is totally normal for her to be anxious, even to act it out instead of talking about it - kids that age just don't have the words to express their fears. Have you drawn pictures with her about Kindergarten - sometimes drawing fears is easier than talking about them.

    Sometimes we have to let them be afraid and experience things before they can really see that they will be okay. You can't promise her she'll have friends, but you can help her figure out what other girls like. You can't promise her teacher will be nice, but you can read books about great kindergarten classes.

    You're looking out for her already and cued in to her emotions - that's the huge first step. Helping her face them and express them appropriately is so much harder - but you're on the right path.

    Good luck!

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