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separation anxiety re. Kindergarten

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Help! My 5yo dd is starting Kindergarten in a couple of weeks, and we are really worried about how to make the transition work.

She was only in 1/2 day preschool for one year (last year) and other than that has had one-on-one care. She had a hard time adjusting to preschool, and we agonized forever over how to handle it. We stayed with her for a few days and then realized that we might be sending a message that we didn't think she could do it on her own. We talked about that and then tried leaving her, and it worked pretty well. She cried for a very short time and then was fine, and was proud that she could do it. But it was always touch and go. She is pretty shy around other kids and it takes her a few minutes to warm up to adults, too.

We are now in the midst of a 1-week summer camp, and it's been a disaster. She was extremely upset--nearly hysterical--when I tried to leave her with the counselor like I had done with her preschool teacher. For the past few days my dh has been staying with her (sitting out in the hall, but still).

This has made us petrified about her starting Kindergarten in a few weeks.

Our plan right now is to talk with the teacher and try to arrange a meeting where my dd goes with us to the classroom and gets to know the teacher.

What else should we do? We cannot stay with her in Kindergarten (both work full time) and are not even sure that'd be a good idea. I so want her to be able to adjust at her own pace, but in this case that might not be possible. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks.
post #2 of 7
I wish I had advice. I need some too! My daughter has always had trouble separating, has had few situations where she was left with another adult (besides family), and though she eventually thrived at preschool there were days where she simply did not want to go and it was a big struggle.

She is starting K in a few weeks too. I am imagining myself sitting in the hallway at her school. I think her teacher will be supportive, but I just don't know. It's a small private school, and my daughter had to do a "playdate" visit--1.5 hours w/o me or her dad (but with other kids), and she was the only one who cried when it came time for the parents to leave. Fortunately, the director swiftly intervened and told my daughter that I could sit in a chair in a corner of the room and quietly observe. She did just fine after that. Maybe they'll allow me to do that when school actually starts?

I was wondering if role-playing beforehand would help. Using her stuffed animals/dolls and "playing school" maybe? That's what I might try.

Mostly, it sounds like you need a solid plan in order for your daughter to feel secure about it. She needs to know that you understand that it is difficult for her, but that you know she can do it. My daughter's preschool teacher used to tell me that tears are a way of relieving stress. If kids cry at the goodbye but quickly recover and have fun, it is their way of releasing stress over the difficulty of the goodbye moment. That was helpful to me. It did really seem like she was doing all she could to avoid that small moment of separating. But once it was over, she was good to go.
post #3 of 7
Can you visit the school beforehand? We visited the school ALOT before school started - usually after hours. We would peek in the windows, play in the playground, and talk about what to expect. I think it helped alot - by the time school started, it felt more like a familiar place.
There are also many books, shows about going to school. Maybe check out some of those?

Good luck - let us know how it goes!
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks, you two. These messages help.

I am torn about what to do. Her teacher said we might consider not talking about Kindergarten until it's time to start, to avoid putting pressure on her. But on the other hand, I want to make it as familiar as possible. I was thinking that playing Kindergarten would be a good idea, as well as visiting the school. Maybe we can do that without bringing up the issue of separation too much. . . . I just don't know.

For us, unfortunately, staying in the hall is not an option; we both have to be at work.

Part of me says, feel confident it'll work out, don't worry about it, just prep her in a relaxed way and it'll be fine. The other part says, yeah, but what if she does the same thing she did at camp this week (i.e. totally freak out and cling to me for dear life--WAY beyond the usual tears of separation that we saw at preschool or with babysitters)? If that happens, I don't know what the right thing to do would be. Oh, I am just so unsure about what is right.
post #5 of 7
It has helped my daughter feel a little more excited about Kindergarten to know another girl who will be in her class. Does your daughter know any of the other kids?

I think it would be good for her to meet the teacher, too. At least, my daughter would want that. She has met her teacher at the school visit, but I'm hoping for another meeting before school actually starts.

A friend of mine had photo necklaces made for her and her daughter. I think the photo was of mom and daughter, and they both wore them on school days. I know that helped her daughter a lot with separation. Oh, and it helped her daughter to be able to bring a stuffed animal to school. Does your daughter have a favorite stuffed friend/doll?

I am so sorry about the camp experience. I know that has to be difficult, since it's coloring how you're viewing the Kindergarten experience. I have had similar experiences with my daughter (she recently freaked out and would NOT stay at the babysitter's house, someone she had met several times and really liked), and my first thought was: How will we survive Kindergarten??

Do you have confidence in the teacher to be able to help with separation? I think that is a big issue. My daughter's teacher has had 30+ years of experience teaching young kids, and I know she's seen it all. I'm still going to be nervous (though I'll try not to let my daughter see it!), but the teacher's confidence will, I think, help me. And, I think you need to expect tears, but not in a worried way. You know? She probably will cry. I know my daughter will. But, when you do discuss K with her you should remind her how well she did in preschool and how proud she was of herself (and you of her). I'll be doing that with my own daughter.

I really feel for you. I know it's hard! I wouldn't bring up the topic with your daughter too far ahead, unless she does. Three weeks is forever in Kid Time. I'm thinking that the week before, I will start gently trying to find out what my daughter's specific worries are so we can make a plan.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Oh, thank you. That is great advice. I might make a photo necklace for each of us--what a great idea! We did go to the school playground yesterday (which is the place where the kids get dropped off), and she had a great time, so I think maybe we'll do that a few more times but not do any direct discussion of K unless she brings it up, as you say. That is a good point.

I am sorry that you and your dd are having similar issues, but it does make me feel better to know we are not alone. Parenting just presents so many opportunities for self-doubt, doesn't it?

I'm glad your dd knows someone else in her class. That is great. Mine doesn't, as far as I know, but we'll see. Her teacher seems very supportive and generously agreed to meet with us for a meet and greet, so I think she's on board.

I think as long as there are no hysterics--no need to peel her off of me--I can handle plain old tears. . . fingers crossed.

Anyway, thanks. Your post has helped me SO much. (And love your screen name! My dd is definitely a "I prefer not to" kinda gal.)
post #7 of 7
You probably can't do this before the first day, but try to arrange a one-on-one playdate with a classmate at your house or their house. I know you probably don't know many of the parents, but ask the teacher who she thinks would be a good match and then ask that parent and go ahead and appeal to their compassionate side and explain that your dd doesn't know anyone and you're wanting to make the transition as smooth as possible.
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