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SEPARATION ANXIETY OF MOTHER AND CHILD FOR FIRST SCHOOLING
The Difficult Child
By: Dr. Stanley Turecki, MD
In elementary school, the most common times for school refusal are in kindergarten and in first grade. Here you must develop an inner attitude that the child belongs in school. The child has to go, there is no choice, and you have to leave him. An abrupt cutoff is much better for the child because otherwise you and the child get more and more enmeshed. So don’t prolong the good-byes. Once you leave, the child usually is okay. If your child is particularly clinging and scared to separate, arrange for an adult in the school to take him from you – then leave.
In some cases the child gets up in the morning with a headache or stomachache, complaining that he’s too sick to go to school. Although the pain may be real enough it is usually not due to illness but rather a manifestation of anxiety. A good way to handle this is to tell the child to go to school, and if he’s still ill in school to see the school nurse or teacher and let her decide. This gets the decision away from you and from the issue of separation.
Some things you should not do:
[bullet] Don’t give the child commercials about school. Don’t get too involved promoting it: “Isn’t first grade fun?” Don’t you just love your teacher?”
[bullet] Don’t ask too many questions about school. If your child comes home and you say, “How was school?” and all he says is, “Fine,” leave it at that. Don’t probe any further. Don’t ask him repeatedly if he was a “good boy.”
[bullet] Don’t worry about temporary regressive behavior. Even if the child is okay in school, there may be regression at home. This is a period of consolidation for the child. Provide him with a secure home base and he should be fine soon.
1. Make sure that you are always on time when you drop your son/daughter off in the morning and pick him/her up after school. It’s important that your child doesn’t feel rushed before saying good-bye or anxious wondering where you are in the afternoon. Being punctual, with a few minutes to spare, will keep him calm and enhance his feelings of safety and security.
2. Trust the teacher’s observations. If your son does calm down after a few minutes and begins to play, don’t worry. It’s quite normal (especially at your child’s age) for a child to cry initially when a parent leaves him at school.