I am so worried! My child seems so afraid of the world, she becomes anxious when going to new places or meeting new people, getting her to school each day is so stressful. Can you suggest any ways I can help her?
I recall watching two parents trying to drop their child at school one morning as they were on their way to work and having a really hard time, probably the most difficult negotiation they had to face of their day. It was a nightmare for all three of them and the child continued to feel anxious once they had left and found it very difficult to settle.
There may be underlying reasons why your child is anxious and it is really important that you get to the root of the cause before trying to deal with the resulting behaviour. Consider what might be causing these feelings, are you anxious, stressed, tired – and consequently exhibiting these feelings. Has your child had a good night’s sleep and waking up early and energetic? If you have to wake her and rush her to school with a rushed breakfast she may not be going to bed early enough and may be over tired.
Try to work out when the feelings begin. Is she always anxious or is it on the way to school or at the school door? Is it at the point where you say goodbye?
Try asking her about her feelings and tell her that you understand. Make sure you are showing her that you love her unconditionally and will always be there for her. When talking to her try to be at her level so both sitting on the bed or if necessary crouch down to her level so your faces are close.
Set the scene! Before you leave home tell her what to expect and involve her ideas in the process for example, “Today when we walk out of the door would you like to pull it closed or shall I? Then should we walk fast or slow? Who do you think we will see first on our way to school?”
Talk about how you are going to say goodbye – would she like one hug or two? Is she going to wave? Where would she like you to be when you pick her up. Always be punctual when collecting or meeting her. If she goes on the bus you can work out the same sort of ideas.
Setting the scene prepares your child for the situation and will occupy her thoughts.
If she is still reluctant you may also discuss what she may miss if she doesn’t go to school – a party invitation, puppy day, a special visitor – think what motivates her and apply it.
Do not bribe with treats as this will not help her deal with her feelings and rewards the behaviour.
If you have a good experience and she seems to be making progress you can tell her that you have recognised that she is growing up, becoming more independent, more confident.
Avoid using terms of praise as often these are meaningless refrains. Do let me know if I can be of further help. Being a parent requires patience, preparation and positivity!
Send your questions to email@example.com.
Anne Revell is a special education, behaviour and parenting consultant who is a part-time Revelstoke resident.