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Old 09-20-2011, 12:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Cross-posted in learning at school.

 

 

DD is six, and in first grade. She had a great time in kindergarten and seemed to love school. Towards the end of the schoolyear last year, she began showing separation anxiety. She did not want to leave me, and started having stomach aches and nightmares.

 

During the summer, the separation anxiety continued. She would not go to play at friends' houses that she used to play at easily, she did not want to stay with her father when I needed to go to a meeting or to work, she cried and clinged to me.

 

She hated herself for not being able to choose to be away from me. She missed playdates that she would have enjoyed, she missed parties and fun things. Its heartbreaking to watch her know that she is missing out on things she would love to do - she looks so sad.

 

We tried to rule out physical causes or traumatic events for the separation anxiety, stomach aches, and nightmares, but there really doesn't seem to be anything there. She went to counseling for anxiety. We only had four sessions but the therapist felt she was behaving normally for her age, plus DD didn't really want to engage with the therapist on working on alleviating anxiety, so right now its at "call me if she's not doing well."

 

Which brings me to the point of my post. She's been having separation anxiety at school and it seems to be getting worse, not better. On the first day, she was able to ride the bus to school with me following behind in the car, then went to her class just fine. Beginning the second week, she began crying when I dropped her off, and clinging to me, so I started walking her to her classroom and giving her a few minutes to transition. Yesterday she began crying so hard and so soon that I just took her home with me rather than have her escalate in front of her peers and the other students, which would just embarrass her. I called her teacher, whose advice was that the principal would come and physically restrain DD while I left - that didn't feel good to me - so I suggested I would volunteer for an hour in the morning and then maybe DD would feel okay about me leaving. Not great, but okay.

 

While volunteering in the classroom this morning, I noticed that DD doesn't really participate. The other children raise their hands and compete to answer a question or for a turn to talk; DD doesn't even try. The material being presented is stuff she already knows, and I know she hates going over stuff she already knows, but its not that far behind her that she couldn't have some fun showing off her knowledge or engaging with the teacher. I don't understand why she is not more involved. She is extremely social, loves attention, loves interaction with others, says she likes school... but during the hour I was there today, I didn't see any of that and its bothering me. I can't tell if she is bored or depressed or anxious or what. Or just having an off day. I left her crying today. I ignored the advice of the aide to just walk out when she wasn't looking and instead let her know that I was leaving and I'd see her in a few hours at the bus stop, which resulted in tears but I left even though.

 

The whole thing doesn't feel right. I don't believe in leaving her against her will. I believe she is telling me she is not ready for that level of independence and I want to honor that, but on the other hand, she has a very intelligent brain and our attempts at homeschooling did not go well (she is difficult to engage in any academic activities, even though she learns quickly, and she is bored and restless at home). I have to work otherwise I might try to find a homeschool coop or something that works better. I'm sad that she is not engaging with the academic material at school - I know she knows most of it, but not even with the new stuff - and I know she loves the socialization aspects, lunch with her friends and recess and P.E. and music.

 

I don't know what to do. I don't know if I should just leave her crying at school as the teachers want me to do, I don't know if I should try to homeschool her, I don't know how to engage her mind or encourage a love of learning, I just don't know what to do.

 

Any thoughts?

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Old 09-20-2011, 02:51 PM
 
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Reading your post, something sounds wrong to me beyond anything normal. First, I would fire the counselor you used, it sounds like she did not connect to your dd and did not have a plan to actually help. For counseling to work, the patient and therapist need to make a connection and have a deep level of trust, it doesn't sound like your dd had that. I would look for a psychologist to evaluate your dd, and try to get to the heart of the issue. Your instincts say something is wrong, and something probably is- trust yourself. Maybe dd had a traumatic event at school last year she is too afraid to tell you about.... I don't know. I do know that I would not continue that pattern of taking her to school and assuming it will get better on it's own.

In your case, I would consider homeschooling as at least a temporary way to help your dd cope while you figure this out. If your dd is ahead anyway, you can do unschooling without worry. I unschooled at times when dd was younger by having lots of books around to read, I read aloud to her daily and we played educational games- both board games and computer games, and we took fun field trips. At the end of first grade, the only area she was below average in was handwriting, and she had fine motor delays we were working through and would have been behind in that anyway. It took the stress and struggle out of first grade for us to just let her lead the way.

Peace,

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Old 09-20-2011, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, OTMomma. Your post really resonates with me. I did consider that there might have been an event at school in April, which is when the nightmares and stomach aches and separation anxiety started. There was an evaluation and she was diagnosed as having generalized anxiety disorder, which they told me was just a blanket diagnosis to use for insurance purposes while they looked for a more specific cause. The therapist she is working with focused on techniques to deal with anxiety and DD is not interested in those techniques, at all. I think a play-based therapy would work better; she would have fun, and they could build a rapport and DD might open up to her. At least, that is what I had thought therapy would be. But they made an individualized support plan targeting specific behaviors related to anxiety and that is guiding the interactions with her. There are only two therapists to choose from and my understanding is that she got the "better" one. There is only one agency in our area that works with our insurance.

 

When I asked DD if she would prefer to be homeschooled or have me present as a volunteer in the classroom, she enthusiastically said she wants me to be in the classroom. Overall, she seems to prefer to be at school. She would rather be at school than at home, but wants me there, too.

 

I think she would really like a small group of homeschoolers, like maybe four or five, that met daily. I think that would be ideal for her. Well, as long as I was there, too.

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Old 09-20-2011, 06:33 PM
 
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Just one more thought- please, tell your dd every day that she can tell you anything, anything at all, and you will still love her. Maybe she will eventually tell you what happened or why she is so anxious. I personally, don't think it does any good to have ways to deal with anxiety if you don't address the cause.

Peace,

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Old 09-21-2011, 01:31 PM
 
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My son did this last year (1st grade) as well.  He would totally refuse to go to school.  I would walk him out to the bus stop, and he would cling to me and cry.  The bus would drive away, DH would head home from work and attempt to drive him to school, where he would cry hysterically, and refuse to get out of the car.  I had a meeting with his teacher, the principal, his school counselor, etc... nothing changed.  I actually did allow the principal to come to our home and pick him up one morning... and I'm so, so glad that you opted out of that.  I can't tell you how much I regret allowing my son to go through that.  The principal didn't have to restrain him or anything, but just the fact that I allowed a "stranger" to come into our home and force my son into something he wasn't comfortable with... it's just a huge regret.  

 

My son also developed tics last year, including a throat clearing tic, a head shaking tic, and a finger licking/eye wiping tic.  We see a ND, and she put him on a couple of supplements to try and help the tics.  Nothing changed.... until the school year ended.  He was magically "cured" during summer break.  That sealed my decision to homeschool, which we've been doing for almost 3 weeks now.  

 

I hope you can figure out something that works for your dd!  It sounds like she actually enjoys school (which my son did not), so it's a shame that she's so upset.  I think that some kids just aren't ready at <x> age to be separated from their parents all day.  Have you asked  her what she would like best?  What she thinks would make her happiest?


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Old 09-21-2011, 01:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by OTMomma View Post

Just one more thought- please, tell your dd every day that she can tell you anything, anything at all, and you will still love her. Maybe she will eventually tell you what happened or why she is so anxious. I personally, don't think it does any good to have ways to deal with anxiety if you don't address the cause.

Peace,


I totally agree with this.  

 

We eventually found out that my son was  having kids go through his backpack on the bus (while it was on his back), and take his stuff.  He also felt embarrassed to ask to use the bathroom... and the cafeteria was far too much stimulation for him.  He said it was too loud, and he hated all the smells.  


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Old 09-21-2011, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son did this last year (1st grade) as well.  He would totally refuse to go to school.  I would walk him out to the bus stop, and he would cling to me and cry.  The bus would drive away, DH would head home from work and attempt to drive him to school, where he would cry hysterically, and refuse to get out of the car.  I had a meeting with his teacher, the principal, his school counselor, etc... nothing changed.  I actually did allow the principal to come to our home and pick him up one morning... and I'm so, so glad that you opted out of that.  I can't tell you how much I regret allowing my son to go through that.  The principal didn't have to restrain him or anything, but just the fact that I allowed a "stranger" to come into our home and force my son into something he wasn't comfortable with... it's just a huge regret.  

 

My son also developed tics last year, including a throat clearing tic, a head shaking tic, and a finger licking/eye wiping tic.  We see a ND, and she put him on a couple of supplements to try and help the tics.  Nothing changed.... until the school year ended.  He was magically "cured" during summer break.  That sealed my decision to homeschool, which we've been doing for almost 3 weeks now.  

 

I hope you can figure out something that works for your dd!  It sounds like she actually enjoys school (which my son did not), so it's a shame that she's so upset.  I think that some kids just aren't ready at <x> age to be separated from their parents all day.  Have you asked  her what she would like best?  What she thinks would make her happiest?



I am so glad you posted your experiences with your son. I needed to hear that some children are just not ready to be separated from their moms at this age. Yesterday DD came home from school quiet and withdrawn (very unusual for her - she usually bounces off the bus ready to play) ran home and was immediately sick. Last night we talked and ideally, she would like to go to school but have me there with her the whole time. She says she likes me volunteering but its still really hard when I have to leave, she says.

 

DD did not want to go to school today. She had a rough night and so did I. When I called the school to have her excused, they told me the principal wanted to talk to me. We talked for over an hour, it basically went like this:

 

Principal: You need to just leave her outside and I will get her and walk her to her class. She will sit on my lap until she feels okay. Even if she is sick at home, she is having good days at school. She needs to learn she can't escape from this by being sick or letting her decide what is right or wrong for her.

 

Me: That doesn't feel right to me. Life is not supposed to be this stressful for a six year old. I want her to feel like she does have some choices. Lets work with a therapist to come up with a plan that we can all feel good about.

 

Principal: That sounds good. We can come up with a plan. I need to let you know that she does NOT have a choice about attending school. I need to let you know I will not authorized excused absences for anxiety, and this could cause you legal problems. I need to let you know that what you are doing is making her anxiety worse by giving in to her. I also cannot have you bring her to class and have the class witness her becoming upset and you taking her home; this is disruptive to the class. So she needs to be dropped off outside. I hope to see her tomorrow for school.

 

After that, I called the therapist who had been working with. I told the therapist what the principal said, and the therapist said that is a terribly wrong approach, she cannot support that, and that she will work with their education person for our school district to find out what we can do that would better support DD. And for me to come in today. So we are going to see the therapist and hopefully have a plan to present to the school district tomorrow. The therapist felt that shortened days, with the option for DD to choose to stay the whole day if she desires might be a good plan, and I will homeschool what she is missing to keep her up with her the class academically.

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Old 09-22-2011, 07:31 AM
 
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What a good mother you are to take your daughter's feelings so seriously.  I think the principal has a screw loose.  Just a thought:  Have you read "The Hurried Child," by David Elkind?  It seems to me that your daughter is showing lots of signs that she is being hurried at a level she just cannot handle.  My kids started at a Montessori this fall after being homeschooled, and tomorrow will be their final day. It's a pretty complicated story, but one of the issues is that my first-grade daughter was showing all the signs of being hurried and stressed out.  She liked field trips and art and recess and the other kids--and even her teacher, to some extent--but being away from me all day just made her very sad, and the kinds of academic pressure she was exposed to were truly disturbing.  It is my opinion--shaped by my own observations of my three children (ages 8, 6, and 4) and reading child development experts like Elkind--that the expectations of today's kindy and first-grade classrooms are developmentally inappropriate for most children.  This is really a shame, as it benefits no one and puts parents in a very tough spot.  Many parents end up homeschooling, even though they would rather have their kids in a school that wasn't so stressful, because they simply can't find or afford such a place. 

 

I'll be following your story.  Your daughter is very fortunate that you are willing to advocate for her.

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Old 09-22-2011, 04:48 PM
 
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It's a tough balance between supporting our kids in their fears and through our support accidentally reinforcing those fears.  I'm not saying what is right or wrong, but I can see the principal's take on it.  Kids do tend to adjust better if there is a solid routine with a specific time the adult leaves.  Some kids are helped by a parent who comes along and leaves gradually, some have more anxiety because they just keep fearing the inevitable separation.

 

I hope you, the therapist, your daughter, and the school are all able to come to a quick plan to help your DD through this struggle.  It sounds so hard for her and your family.

 

Tjej

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Old 09-22-2011, 05:21 PM
 
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I agree that your principal has a screw loose...lol.  I understand that it is distracting for one child to be upset in front of all the other children... but you are HER mama only, and it's your job to make sure that SHE is okay.  Not the entire class.  I couldn't just let a teacher/principal/etc. pry my crying child away from me, and walk away like it wasn't happening.  It also seems kind of uncalled for that he would tell you that you're causing yourself legal problems.  Is he trying to scare you into doing things his way?

 

I don't know... I felt one way when I was in your shoes last year, and now looking back, I feel a little different.  

 

Let us know how it goes with the therapist!  Hopefully you guys can all work something out that makes everyone happy.  Especially your DD!

 

Good luck mama!


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Old 09-22-2011, 08:45 PM
 
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Yeesh!  Sitting on his lap?  Does he honestly think this would help?  And vaguely perverted....nono02.gif  That's my emoticon sayin' "Not my daughter!  Nu-uh, no way!"

 

Good luck...your daughter has a great ally.  I hope your therapist can help you work this out with the school district.  "Legal trouble" isn't the job of the principal anyway.  He could get the ball rolling perhaps, but that's the school district's jurisdiction.


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Old 09-23-2011, 09:01 AM
 
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Yikes.  I'd withdraw her from the school and homeschool temporary especially with that kind of threat coming from the principal.  I don't know about your state, but there are some big ramifications possible if she's considered a truant.  Maybe there is a local homeschool co-op she can join?

 

We started homeschooling because of a similar separation issue.  I'm glad I honored ds's feelings.  It took a while for him to get back to normal.  Kids just shouldn't be that stressed and anxious:-(


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Old 09-23-2011, 12:52 PM
 
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Yeesh!  Sitting on his lap?  Does he honestly think this would help?  And vaguely perverted....nono02.gif  That's my emoticon sayin' "Not my daughter!  Nu-uh, no way!"

 

Good luck...your daughter has a great ally.  I hope your therapist can help you work this out with the school district.  "Legal trouble" isn't the job of the principal anyway.  He could get the ball rolling perhaps, but that's the school district's jurisdiction.



Right!?  I would die if our old principal said that me...


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Old 09-23-2011, 09:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeesh!  Sitting on his lap?  Does he honestly think this would help?  And vaguely perverted....nono02.gif  That's my emoticon sayin' "Not my daughter!  Nu-uh, no way!"

 

Good luck...your daughter has a great ally.  I hope your therapist can help you work this out with the school district.  "Legal trouble" isn't the job of the principal anyway.  He could get the ball rolling perhaps, but that's the school district's jurisdiction.



lol, yes, I felt the same way. The principal is a woman, and she is rather grandmotherly, but DD does not like or trust her at all.

 

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Old 09-24-2011, 09:15 AM
 
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lol, yes, I felt the same way. The principal is a woman, and she is rather grandmotherly, but DD does not like or trust her at all.

 



Oh, thank you!  Those comments just did not sit well with me.  I am grateful you straightened that out. faint.gif


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Old 09-26-2011, 02:41 AM
 
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I would also be very concerned that something may have happened at the time this behavior started, and your daughter hasn't told you about it. My daughter developed almost the exact behavior you're describing, except that we've always home schooled, so it was just about leaving her in other situations, even though she'd outgrown separation anxiety about 3 years before that. For my daughter, the trigger was a big move.
 

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It's a tough balance between supporting our kids in their fears and through our support accidentally reinforcing those fears.  I'm not saying what is right or wrong, but I can see the principal's take on it.  Kids do tend to adjust better if there is a solid routine with a specific time the adult leaves.  Some kids are helped by a parent who comes along and leaves gradually, some have more anxiety because they just keep fearing the inevitable separation.



This is not a normal situation, though. The child has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It is not a just a "fear". If you've never had a child with anxiety disorder, I can see where this might seem like pure logic, but if you have, you know that 'solid routines' do not cure anxiety. Not EVER. Sure, they can help a little bit, but with the level of anxiety she is describing, I highly, highly doubt that just leaving despite her cries would solve this problem. The principal's advice is completely wrong and off base. I would NEVER do what that principal is suggesting.

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Old 09-26-2011, 12:30 PM
 
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I'm curious - have you heard of selective mutism?  Mainly it's a disorder where the child shuts down in public and cannot speak - severe anxiety disorder. I had it and displayed all the symptoms your daughter is displaying - stomachaches, inability to separate from my mother healthfully (honestly because I did not feel SAFE or able to function when far away from her), nightmares, unable to attend fun functions like birthday parties, unable to participate in class, and mistrusting of any any and all authorities who were not of pure love and kindness.

 

Someone with selective mutism oftentimes looks like someone who may have been abused, when in fact they weren't.

 

Anyway, I was never diagnosed, never treated, so my life was rough... but going to school everyday and people displaying tough love and forcing separation between me and my mother did absolutely nothing to help me.  I had to find nurturing men when I was a teenager that would give me the unconditional love and listening I needed when I was a little girl.  That was the only thing that helped me heal.  I needed to know I was safe physically, and to be who I was and feel whatever I was feeling and have it be listened to. That's probably all I ever needed.

 

Just wanted to put that out there in case she may have it.

 

I completely agree with plummeting's comment  - "This is not a normal situation, though. The child has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It is not a just a "fear". If you've never had a child with anxiety disorder, I can see where this might seem like pure logic, but if you have, you know that 'solid routines' do not cure anxiety. Not EVER. Sure, they can help a little bit, but with the level of anxiety she is describing, I highly, highly doubt that just leaving despite her cries would solve this problem. The principal's advice is completely wrong and off base. I would NEVER do what that principal is suggesting."

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Old 09-26-2011, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm curious - have you heard of selective mutism?  Mainly it's a disorder where the child shuts down in public and cannot speak - severe anxiety disorder. I had it and displayed all the symptoms your daughter is displaying - stomachaches, inability to separate from my mother healthfully (honestly because I did not feel SAFE or able to function when far away from her), nightmares, unable to attend fun functions like birthday parties, unable to participate in class, and mistrusting of any any and all authorities who were not of pure love and kindness.

 

Someone with selective mutism oftentimes looks like someone who may have been abused, when in fact they weren't.

 

Anyway, I was never diagnosed, never treated, so my life was rough... but going to school everyday and people displaying tough love and forcing separation between me and my mother did absolutely nothing to help me.  I had to find nurturing men when I was a teenager that would give me the unconditional love and listening I needed when I was a little girl.  That was the only thing that helped me heal.  I needed to know I was safe physically, and to be who I was and feel whatever I was feeling and have it be listened to. That's probably all I ever needed.

 

Just wanted to put that out there in case she may have it.

 

I completely agree with plummeting's comment  - "This is not a normal situation, though. The child has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It is not a just a "fear". If you've never had a child with anxiety disorder, I can see where this might seem like pure logic, but if you have, you know that 'solid routines' do not cure anxiety. Not EVER. Sure, they can help a little bit, but with the level of anxiety she is describing, I highly, highly doubt that just leaving despite her cries would solve this problem. The principal's advice is completely wrong and off base. I would NEVER do what that principal is suggesting."



Although  DD is quite talkative, even in public and in school, everything else you are saying describes her perfectly. She does not feel safe unless I am in eyesight, and she is mistrustful of any adults who are not of pure love and kindness. She does have diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.

 

I was the same way. I didn't feel safe being away from my mom until I was 10 or 11, and even then, I couldn't do things like sleepovers. When I got old enough, I looked for the love I was missing in romantic relationships with older people, and found it there. That is what helped me more than anything. But I was tough-loved as a child, too. I'm hoping DD will not have to wait until then to get what she needs, or use romantic relationships to meet that need, because in the long run those relationships tend to be stifling and sometimes unhealthy.

 

Right now, the school is being great. We have a plan in which she goes for the first hour or so, and I sit in the back and do volunteer work. After the transition to literacy circles, she can either choose to leave with me or stay. Today was the first day and she didn't even consider doing anything other than leave with me. However, it was positive in that she stood in front of the class and did her show and tell when it was her turn, and seemed to be more interested in listening to the teacher and interacting somewhat. She didn't keep looking back to make sure I was there.

 

The hard part for me was that when we got home, she was very resistant to doing any schoolwork. I want her to keep up with the class because the plan is still, ultimately, for her to return to a full school day, and if she gets behind, that will make it more difficult for her. If I knew for sure we were going to end up homeschooling I would be more relaxed about the schoolwork but right now, it seems important to keep up.

 

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Old 09-27-2011, 08:45 PM
 
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Well, I'm glad it's not selective mutism, but it sounds just as difficult. You sound like a fabulous mommy and that you're doing the right thing for her. I'm glad things are looking up. :)  Interesting the similarities between you and I - thanks for sharing. It's comforting, actually. I had the same experience - that those relationships were stifling or otherwise unhealthy.

 

Hopefully she'll thrive with all the support. :)

 

I am curious why she's resisting the homework.... but then again my son is resistant too, and I homeschool.  I've resorted to a reward system, lol. And I have to constantly remind him of his progress and why he needs to learn what it is he needs to learn.  Do you give her time to unwind and discharge all that anxiety when she gets home? - a time of just BEING, and no pressure?

 

 

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Old 09-28-2011, 10:18 AM
 
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It sounds like you have my daughter two years ago. We experienced the exact same thing about a month into first grade. After a couple times of my daughter locking the car door at school and refusing to get out, crying, carrying her across the school to her classroom, and the teacher having to peel her arms from around my leg and hold her back in the classroom, we decided to try homeschooling.

 

I’m not at all saying that is the answer for you, but just that was a solution that worked for us.

 

The encouragement I can offer though is this, your daughter is telling you something.  She is making it very clear that she does not want to be there without you. Whatever the reasons, I don’t think are as important as listening to the need and responding. She needs to know it is safe to express her needs and that you will respond and support her. Whatever that looks like to your family is different than my family. But it is a rare adult who can identify exactly what they need emotionally and can effectively communicate that need to the person who can provide fulfillment. So, in my opinion, she is way ahead of the curve in healthy communication and relationships. That is a lot more than the majority of adults can do. Listen to her!

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