Often we expect to have a few problems when our children first start nursery school and are able to understand and empathize with their plight, but when we have a child who has been fine for some time and then starts to have problems going to school we can get confused. Often though, children who are good at new situations can have prolonged reactions to a new routine. It’s almost like they realize that the fun of doing something new is gone and that this is life now. These children can display signs of anxiety and reluctance several months after starting school, and will require the same type of help you gave the first few weeks of school.
Tactile children tend to get very physical in their display of anxiety. They kick, hit and hang to Mom for dear life. Match your solution to their sense — try to distract with physical activities. Start the minute you get out of the car in the morning — hop to the gate, see who can run to the front desk the fastest. Consider having a “Backward Day,” where you walk backwards, carry your backpack on your front or wear hats reversed. The aim is to make a game of physically walking into the preschool. Once inside, make sure they have a special comfort toy that your child can hold. Let it be your child’s choice — you may think a teddy bear sounds cuddly, but many tactile children prefer things like small balls, or cars they can push or bracelets with beads that move.
Visual children will respond positively to visual similarities. A visual similarity with a classmate will help comfort a child. Call the mother of a friend, and have both children wear red T-shirts, or bring green cars on the same day. This will give you the ability to point out visual similarities, creating a friendly bond. A visual book of activities also can be useful, as preschoolers don’t have a great concept of time. A small book of the day’s activities, such as free play, recess, nap, lunch and — of course — pick up, will help them to adjust to the schedule, and reassure them that you will return. Reward stickers are popular, but are best given at the start of the day, for your visual child. This will enable your child to show off the sticker at school that day.
The noise of preschool often can take some getting used to for auditory children. Walking into all the noise at the start of the day can compound an already anxious situation. If possible, ask your preschool teacher to play your child’s favorite song on arrival, or allow your child to pick a song once there. If school is very hectic and noisy on arrival, try to get your child there early, when only a few children are present. Similarly, try to arrive early for pick up, before the chaos starts. Try creating a rhythm of the school schedule, so that your child can recite how the day is progressing, when quiet and noisy activities are happening.
Taste and smell children will copy your anxiety, so do your best to be upbeat and positive. Talk about when you went to preschool and how proud you are of them and how big they are becoming. Don’t just leave them at the gate and run; take time to settle them in and hand them over to a person they like. They may need to take many comfort toys with them to school, so don’t be surprised if they want to take whole families of dolls or cars. It’s their way of keeping home with them. Make a picture book of all the people they love, going to preschool, or work or school, and let them take it to school, to help them feel less alone.
Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at childsense.com.
© 2013, Priscilla Dunstan
Distributed by MCT Information Services