How do I Help my Son Settle in School?
My 4-year-old son is not settling into school well at all. He is crying all day at school, and crying himself to sleep at night. He is not eating. I am desperate to have some advice. Can you help at all?
I understand your frustration and how upsetting this can be. Many children have a difficult time when they first start school, or when they Move To A New School, but before long, most get over their initial anxiety and begin to enjoy themselves. There are some things that you can do to help your son deal with his anxious feelings and refocus his attention of the positive aspects of attending school.
It’s important not to minimise his feelings because while you may know that he will ultimately be fine, he’s certainly not feeling that way. Encourage your son to talk to you about what he’s feeling and ask him specific questions that promote detailed conversation. For instance, rather than asking if he feels frightened, inquire about the things he likes and dislikes about school. It can also help to role-play with your son, giving him the opportunity to practice facing his fears while safe at home with you.
If you haven’t yet done so, it may be wise to talk to your son’s teacher about his behaviour at various times throughout the school day. It’s possible that there are specific activities that trigger his anxiety, resulting in tearful outbursts. Some kids dwell excessively on their worries, so what may seem like an overall discontent with the school experience may be your son’s way of expressing his anxiety over a certain segment of his day.
I’m not sure if you are able to observe your son at school, but it may be helpful for you to get a first-hand look at his classroom in action. Each teacher has a unique style, with some allowing a bit of boisterous activity while others run a pretty orderly schedule. Depending on your son’s personality, he may simply be uncomfortable with the level of noise and activity in his surroundings.
You know him better than anyone and are in the best position to judge whether or not his current classroom provides the best learning environment for him. Once you’ve made your observations, you would not be unreasonable to ask that he be moved into another class if you feel that he would be able to function better under a different teacher’s instruction.
Finally, if after doing all that you can, your son’s school anxiety does not seem to improve, you may want to talk to his doctor, as it is possible that what he is experiencing is beyond simple school or separation anxiety. Effective treatment is available for anxiety disorders, so there is no need for kids to suffer.