1st grader suddenly doesn't want to go to school - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 10:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm looking for an explanation. My first-grader was fine all week. He said school was good and enjoyed it as far as I could tell. This was the first full 5-day week of school. But this morning he refused to get on the bus and said he didn't want to go. So, then I had to drive him to school. And he cried as a I left him there with the other kids on the playground. I feel terrible and he must too. I hope he has a good day. I'm thinking it's just because he's in a period of transition and getting used to things.

I tried to be as positive as possible for him, listing all the things I know he likes about the school setting. He's got a good snack and lunch. It's Friday. He even has Art class today. His teachers seem so nice this year. He gets to play on the playground, have lunch with friends, etc. I'm trying to figure out why this resistance popped-up so suddenly. I just feel SO bad for him. And, now, I have a headache
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#2 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 10:38 AM
 
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Well, you know, he's 6 and it's Friday.

But that's not helpful so: Sometimes my son goes through this. Usually after a day or two, a story comes out. Last time it was that one of his friends called his father mean for cutting down a tree. The time before that his teacher had asked him to erase a mark he had drawn onto one of the tables. In most cases resistance to school has boiled down to:

- something went wrong, usually 'minor' in adult eyes
- he was getting a cold or the flu
- he had new toys at home
- something was up in the family that was stressing him out

These things are huge for a child and they need hugs and a listening ear, but in each case so far my son has joyfully returned once whatever the thing was has passed. The main thing is to keep tuned in. And if it doesn't pass then ask more questions.

Also if this was his first week, he may just be tired out. It's hard at the start.

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#3 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 12:20 PM
 
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Yep, I agree with GuildJenn -- it's the last day of a long week. My dd is in 1st grade and she loves school. She was nearly impossible to get out of bed this morning, and kept saying "I can't wait until tomorrow so I can sleep as late as I want."

And yes to the "something minor may have happened" as well. Dd came home yesterday and complained for 20 minutes about a neighbor ("she just comes over to our house because she wants snacks, she's spoiled...."). After 20 minutes it finally came out that the neighbor had walked away because dd didn't know how to play a game on the playground. It surely wasn't worth all that emotional effort (in my eyes), but dd really needed to process it.

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#4 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 12:29 PM
 
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yup yup yup. same with a 3rd grader. sleep caught up with us and we got up late yesterday and so skipped school. dd had a blast and happily went to school today.

dont know if this is the popular opinion but i took pretty regular days off in K and first while dd 'adjusted'. her teachers all knew and were actually very supportive of me. in fact because of that her first grade teacher called me a 'cool mom' we took rare days off in second and continue in 3rd.

so in your case if you were able to be home with your child, i wouldnt have gone to school. yesterday we did a U turn in front of school and went back and had a blast.

but another thing to keep in mind if he continues this on monday - is he being bullied?

and i agree the story comes out a day or two later.

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#5 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 12:34 PM
 
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My 16 year old was hard to nudge out of bed today. It is Friday and its raining.... bed is nice and warm.... who can blame him?
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#6 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 04:46 PM
 
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If he has already done a year of kindergarten in the same school, could there be a bullying issue?

If this is his first year in school, or even just at this school, could it be b/c he doesn't yet have any friends? I've noticed that my child will feel very insecure, sensitive and scared until he has at least one buddy.
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#7 of 34 Old 09-17-2010, 04:55 PM
 
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I was okay for a few days in the first grade. Then I cried every morning for weeks. I was homesick. I didn't want to leave my parents. They started sending me a family picture in my lunch box, but I started looking at it so much that the teacher threatened to take it away.

First grade is tough!

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#8 of 34 Old 09-18-2010, 09:55 AM
 
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I definitely think being at the end of a stressful week is a likely culprit. Even if he's enjoying school, getting back into things can take it's toll: less sleep (usually, since you're getting readjusted to the school schedule), having to be on good behaviour all day for teachers, navigating social situations, being in a new environment, etc, etc. By all means talk to him about it to see if there's anything specific bugging him, but if you can't pinpoint anything, then I'd say just continue to be supportive and soon enough the period of adjustment will be over and he'll settle into things.

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#9 of 34 Old 09-20-2010, 10:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DS refused to go again today. I think I'm in trouble here. I'm trying to get to the bottom of the stress that he's experiencing. He said the things that are troubling him are basically the lack of freedom and the very long day. Yikes!

I keep telling him that it will take some time to feel comfortable with how things are done and he needs to give 1st grade a fair chance.

He doesn't like that he's been told 'no' when he has asked to go to the bathroom. He and the rest of the kids have to put their heads down at lunch time when the room gets too noisy or when they are about to dismiss the kids from the lunchroom. He can't come and go as he pleases to get a drink of water, etc.

I don't know how to get him to accept that this is the nature of the school setting. They have the responsibility to keep track of many kids at any given moment. So, these are the routines that they have chosen to keep order.

I've tried to point out all of the positives such as recess, music, art, friends, bus rides, snack time, nice teachers, etc. So, what should I do now? Unfortunately, I cannot afford to place him in a more holistic school setting at this time. And, I don't think he will be satisfied if I keep him home. He's an extrovert and very social.
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#10 of 34 Old 09-20-2010, 02:12 PM
 
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DS refused to go again today. I think I'm in trouble here. I'm trying to get to the bottom of the stress that he's experiencing. He said the things that are troubling him are basically the lack of freedom and the very long day. Yikes!

I keep telling him that it will take some time to feel comfortable with how things are done and he needs to give 1st grade a fair chance.

He doesn't like that he's been told 'no' when he has asked to go to the bathroom. He and the rest of the kids have to put their heads down at lunch time when the room gets too noisy or when they are about to dismiss the kids from the lunchroom. He can't come and go as he pleases to get a drink of water, etc.

I don't know how to get him to accept that this is the nature of the school setting. They have the responsibility to keep track of many kids at any given moment. So, these are the routines that they have chosen to keep order.

I've tried to point out all of the positives such as recess, music, art, friends, bus rides, snack time, nice teachers, etc. So, what should I do now? Unfortunately, I cannot afford to place him in a more holistic school setting at this time. And, I don't think he will be satisfied if I keep him home. He's an extrovert and very social.
I think time and listening to his feelings will help. Those are all legitimate things to not like about school but (IMO) they are not reasons to stay home either.

I think sometimes with kids too, at least right now in history, we forget to emphasize how important their learning is. We don't want to pressure them (which I agree with) but they may need help with the benefits.

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#11 of 34 Old 09-20-2010, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This morning we talked a lot about why he was feeling upset. I want to be sensitive and respectful of how he feels about going to school all day. What he dislikes about school doesn't sound horrible to me (yet it *is* less than ideal). We had to discuss everything at great length so he ended up going in late to school. It took a lot of persuasion on my part. I told him he must give it a fair amount of time and he will probably begin to feel more comfortable with school and the routines they have. I told him I think he can handle going. However, it's not easy to see him struggling with this. He such a sweet and sensitive person.

The problem *I* have is if he's too stressed out about the way things are done at school then it will not be a conducive learning environment for him. He's got to be able to navigate his way without getting tearful and stressed out about it or he won't be learning very much.

I hope this rough patch is short-lived. A first-grader shouldn't be this stressed-out. He should be getting home from school soon. Hopefully, it will be good news!
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#12 of 34 Old 09-20-2010, 04:44 PM
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He doesn't like that he's been told 'no' when he has asked to go to the bathroom.
This could be a legitimate issue. Some teachers do not let children go to the bathroom often enough. Also his teacher might not be a good fit for him. Some teachers/schools allow the students to have water bottles. Going to the bathroom and staying hydrated are health issues not behavior ones. Is there any way you can observe the class for at least part of the day? We have a few charter schools and a school of choice lab school in our area. Are you sure there aren't any free alternative school choices where you are? It took some research to find what our choices were.
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#13 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is getting exhausting. Again this morning he refused from the moment he woke up. I had to drive him in because he missed the bus. My heart aches for him, but I have persisted in not allowing him to stay home from school because I told him that he needs to be there and give it time before he will feel better about going.

He now says that he HATES school. Please someone tell me that this will get better. I'm am totally stressed out because he is totally stressed out.

I got one more tidbit of information about why he's decided that he now hates school. He told me to keep it a secret (I'm not sure why). Apparently, there was some kind of test sheets given out that the kids had to do that was placed in their school files and he feels he did really badly on it. Ugh.
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#14 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 01:07 PM
 
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meemee: you are my hero for taking your dd out of school on some days.
I did that with my dd in Kindergarten, but didn't "dare" to do it yet now that she is in first grade (fearing she might not want to go back at all). She also says she hates school.

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I think the best you can do is listening to your ds and giving him the feeling that he is supported by you no matter what. Lots of praise for his accomplishments - and making it through another day at this stage is an accomplishment.

Does he have friends in class? It takes time for them to get to know each other, but having made friends will make all the difference.

I think it will get better - and I say that to myself as well as my dd is
working on adjusting to life in public school.
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#15 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 02:43 PM
 
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OK, it seems to me that it's time to get the school involved. I would call the school counselor and his teacher and ask to set up a meeting (have your ds there for part of it, maybe, but you need time to talk frankly without him being there).

Ask them what they're seeing at school. Express your concern that he's not being allowed to go to the bathroom when he needs to. Press them to see what sort of supervision is on the playground and whether they've noticed any bullying. Ask them whether he's made any friends or if there are any kids they could buddy him up with. Find out whether there might be another teacher who's a better fit.

And then decide whether you want to keep going, or give home schooling a shot.

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#16 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 03:13 PM
 
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aaaaaaaah LightToast is your son a perfectionist? does he set v. high standards for himself?

i think this is some kind of intrinsic thing within him - which is coming out with school issues because that's where he lacks control. not having control, not doing well on his test are all signs of that.

can you take happy days and miss maybe one day every two weeks. mainly to 'show' your son you hear him and support him. and you agree with him [i think that was the BIGGEST thing with my dd - we've been down this road. as long as i understood and agreed really helped] it was easier for her to accept that she cant control every aspect of her life.

how is his teacher? i would definitely talk to the teacher. what dd's teacher did was assign her nonacademic duties. gave her more of a leadership role. for the whole of K dd went to school because she thought she had to go to help the teacher. she took her 'work' very seriously and thought her teacher couldnt function without her

i think what's happening to him is he is discovering we all lied to our children. that's what my dd struggled with at K. the fact that the world DOES NOT revolve around them. in fact its quite the opposite.

the things that helped my dd were
- sharing with her my own disappointments with life. how i had to do something when i didnt want to or wanted to do something else. that really helped her see that this indeed is what life is.
- wake her up cuddling and laying in bed with her for a few minutes chatting. its kinda getting out on the right side of the bed.
- doing something exciting before going to school. like stopping at a bagel shop or coffee shop and getting vanilla soy milk.
- get to school early and stay with ds and let him play with his friends. we have assembly so i stay and listen and then leave while dd goes to her classroom.

how about you volunteering in his classroom? meaning for a few hours once a week.

but i think for us the biggest thing that has always worked is talking to dd's teacher. letting her know what's going on with dd. so sometimes i had a meeting just teacher and me. but most important was all 3 of us talking. i asked dd if i had permission to share what she had said and it has helped immensely.

i know how hard this must be for you.

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#17 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 07:41 PM
 
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The bathroom thing definitely sounds like something worth talking to the teacher about. When a 6 yr old boy says he needs to go to the bathroom you let him go to the bathroom. Period. The same thing happened to my friend's ds last year (when he was in grade 1). The teacher had a policy that kids couldn't go to the bathroom until a set time. On one of the first days of school my friend's ds politely put up his hand and asked to go to the bathroom. The teacher refused to let him go and he wet his pants. He spent the rest of the school day in wet pants! My friend was irate and got in touch with the teacher and the principal.

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#18 of 34 Old 09-21-2010, 09:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for the thoughts everybody. A small school with lots of flexibility would be a much better fit. But unfortunately, there are no nearby alternative, warm fuzzy schools in our area so for the time being we need to see if we can get this public school to work for him. It really helps to have others input on the situation. As you can probably tell, this is my first time going thru this type of issue. DS is a perfectionist and also really sensitive. So, if he gets something wrong it's hard for him.

He came home happy from school today so that is encouraging. His teachers wrote a note home saying that he sat for about 10 minutes at the beginning of the day with a teddy bear, but then pulled himself together to participate in class and had a really good remainder of the day.

As for the bathroom, I will have to investigate further to find out what the procedure is during lunchtime for bathroom use. I think in the classroom they are generally allowed to go without an issue. But during lunch I get the sense (based on what DS tells me) that things are loud and a bit chaotic and perhaps the supervision isn't always receptive to kids raising a hand to go to the bathroom. What I do know is there are aides in the room while the kids eat lunch, I don't know if there are teachers there. I will find out tomorrow.

I'm hoping getting him to school tomorrow morning will be stress free. I sure do love this sweet little boy and I want him to be happy and enjoy his time learning at school. I know this is a period of great growth for him and I feel like he's on the cusp of something wonderful, yet I must tread delicately, carefully through these uncertain times with him.
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#19 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 03:32 AM
 
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The bathroom thing definitely sounds like something worth talking to the teacher about. When a 6 yr old boy says he needs to go to the bathroom you let him go to the bathroom. Period. The same thing happened to my friend's ds last year (when he was in grade 1). The teacher had a policy that kids couldn't go to the bathroom until a set time. On one of the first days of school my friend's ds politely put up his hand and asked to go to the bathroom. The teacher refused to let him go and he wet his pants. He spent the rest of the school day in wet pants! My friend was irate and got in touch with the teacher and the principal.
Ah the difference a good teacher makes! Ds wet his pants at the end of the school day during the first week of class. I got a call from the teacher before ds ever got off the school bus. She expressed her concern, she wanted me to know that the kids could go to the bathroom whenever they needed to, and that all that ds needed to do was ask. Ds was very very shy and didn't want to ask. So, they worked out a system where they checked in with him to make sure that he'd gone during bathroom break and one other time.

That's why I think it's crucial to involve the teacher/school. If they're good, they'll want to help. Most teachers really care about their students.

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#20 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 04:48 AM
 
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That seems hard.

Are you open to homeschooling him?
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#21 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 06:06 AM
 
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The teacher refused to let him go and he wet his pants. He spent the rest of the school day in wet pants! My friend was irate and got in touch with the teacher and the principal.
i am sooo glad she did. dd has had a few accidents. they are taken to the office immediately and given a change of clothes. if they have none the parents are called. immediately. the child waits at the office.

i cant imagine keeping a child in wet clothes the whole day even for a minute longer.

in both the schools dd was in they knew accidents were normal and always treated it with much compassion.

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#22 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 08:53 AM
 
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I'm hoping getting him to school tomorrow morning will be stress free. I sure do love this sweet little boy and I want him to be happy and enjoy his time learning at school. I know this is a period of great growth for him and I feel like he's on the cusp of something wonderful, yet I must tread delicately, carefully through these uncertain times with him.
I think you're doing great. I agree that as it's continuing to escalate it is a good time to get the school more involved and see what can be worked out about the bathroom, etc. It does sound like it's a bit more than usual adjustment woes in some ways.

But really - you're connected and listening and working for a solution. I think that is really the best you can do right now.

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#23 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, it's another day and he's still upset and refused to get on the bus, so I drove him in again. I offered to talk with his teacher if she was available this morning and that got him in the door. But his teacher was in a meeting. So, I wrote her a note and he gave it to her.

I feel very sad for him, knowing how hard this continues to be on him. I really didn't expect it. Hopefully, we'll get to talk with the teacher soon and that *might* help him feel better and provide more insight into what's going on.

It could be an option to home school, but I want him to give this school a fair shot before we make a decision that it's not a learning environment that works for him. I won't accept anything less than a place where he does thrive. However, only giving it a couple of weeks seems like a bit too early to draw conclusions or make a decision.

My gut is telling me to give it more time, but how much time should we give it?
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#24 of 34 Old 09-22-2010, 02:49 PM
 
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Light Toast, you have my sympathy.

I would seriously consider moving him to a different teacher. I know how hard it is when you are new in a school, and don't know any of the teachers yet, and don't have friends and neighbors who can tell you who are the good ones and who to avoid. I would talk to the principal, and see if he/she can suggest a teacher that might be a better for for your son.

If that's not an option, or if it's not so much a clash of philosophy with the teacher, you definitely need to get the lines of communication opened up with her. DH and I used to walk our sons into the building so we could say Hi to their teachers in the morning, through 3rd or 4th grade. Email can be a fantastic way to keep in touch with a teacher, at her convenience. Meetings during her prep time or after school are also critical. You need to foster the feeling that you, the teacher, and the school are working together to do what's best for your son.

For now, don't get too excited about "learning environment". All of the kids are in transition, and I'm guessing that your ds gets a lot of learning opportunities at home. It's not like he's trying to learn calculus at this point - he'll easily catch up, once he's more comfortable in the classroom.

One of my sons had social issues in 6th grade. His teacher felt very strongly that at that age, working on his social skill was far more important than academics. I would think this would be just as true in 1st grade.

Your son may need more sleep, now that he has a more rigid schedule during the day. We are very careful (even now that my sons are in high school) to go to bed about the same time and get up about the same time - even on weekends - to stay in a good sleep routine.

I applaud you for getting him in the door every day. I know it's a LOT harder to force your baby to do something that's making him cry - the easy thing would be to let him stay home (at least in the short term). Hugs to you for doing what you feel is right, even though it is very difficult.

Keep us posted!

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#25 of 34 Old 09-25-2010, 03:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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When DS came home Thursday from school he was gushing about what a great time he had at recess. And, yesterday was better getting out the door to go to school. There was no crying, but still some reluctance. I think DS is going to be okay though. He seems to be starting to feel better and more comfortable at school.

DH and I had a talk with him this morning about what his fears were and really tried to help him understand how to handle situations that come up, i.e. having to go to the bathroom at lunchtime and what to if no one acknowledges him when he been raising his hand to ask to go. We told him he NEEDS to just get up and go. There are always exceptions to rules, especially if the lunchtime aides aren't paying attention to the kids who've been raising their hands to get permission to go to the bathroom. If they reprimand him for breaking a rule then we need to know about it right away. Taking care of necessary bodily functions supersedes the lunch time "must stay in your seat" rule.
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#26 of 34 Old 09-25-2010, 04:12 PM
 
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I would really want to know what is going on. But chances are, your child would have a hard time verbalizing it. Plus, if the teacher or some other staff member were being mean, your child might feel it is his fault and not tell you.
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#27 of 34 Old 09-25-2010, 04:40 PM
 
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I think you guys continue to do great. (Hope that doesn't sound smarmy.) Have you been able to talk to the teacher about the rules?

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#28 of 34 Old 09-29-2010, 10:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, GuildJenn. We been having ups and downs. The "downs" take place in the morning before school. And, the "ups" are when DS gets home from school. Yesterday he said he had a good day, but then today it was the same trouble again in the morning, DS was crying, resisting, and just generally upset about having to go to school all day.

I talked to the school counselor yesterday (at the request of DS). She was very nice, but that's about it. She said she is going to meet with him tomorrow (she's not there today). I'm not sure how much help she will be. She said that she's got several K and 1st grade boys dealing with the same or similar issues. Hmm, I wonder why it's just the boys?? She said that girls do not typically have this problem.

This school counselor believes that little boys tend to be very attached to their mothers and that is why they have a harder time with going to school. (FYI, I don't really believe that theory) I told her I think DS is having issues because he fundamentally doesn't feel comfortable there and that's why he doesn't want to stay all day. (He has been away from me all day on other occasions and it has never been a problem for him.)

So now, I'll just have to wait to see what happens...these stressful morning routines are a real downer
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#29 of 34 Old 09-29-2010, 11:03 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LightToast View Post
This school counselor believes that little boys tend to be very attached to their mothers and that is why they have a harder time with going to school. (FYI, I don't really believe that theory) I told her I think DS is having issues because he fundamentally doesn't feel comfortable there and that's why he doesn't want to stay all day. (He has been away from me all day on other occasions and it has never been a problem for him.)
I've noticed this at my son's school on and off too. I think there are a lot more reasons for it than 'very attached to their mothers.'

To be a little stereotypical and noting that lots of kids don't fit their socialized gender norms, I think schools are set up with more activities that appeal to girls right now, with fewer opportunities to explore physically. I think the girls may be slightly ahead, which makes them feel successful in that environment. I think girls may be ahead in socializing and associate school with friends.

Which leads me to one thought I had - does your son have special friends at school? Would maybe having some playdates with a few kids make him look forward to seeing them there?

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#30 of 34 Old 10-08-2010, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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He does have a couple of special friends at school, but that doesn't seem to be enough of a good reason to look forward to going to school. I'm feeling sorry for him because he can't seem to find it worthwhile to go. But we are trudging along and taking it one day at a time

He's gone on play dates with friends outside of school as well and that just doesn't seem to be enough either. I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall at school and REALLY see how things are going because I really can't get how he has such an aversion to the environment.

As an outsider looking in, the people seem generally kind and professional. However, I cannot be certain of this because DS is so, so unhappy every single school day morning.

I find myself questioning all of this but can't pinpoint an answer. I've talked to some of the other moms and they have had similar experiences with their first graders not liking school. Does the resistance merely stop in successive years because they have just resigned themselves to the fact that school just isn't going to change for the better? I'm reminded of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

I sure hope this is not the case. I'm trying to remain optimistic during this marathon. He is such a smart, sweet kid. So where's the justification for all the woes? And what's it worth? I keep asking.
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