Monday, 4 November 2013

ANXIETY & the return to school

Half term is over & Esme's back to school again (Year 1)

Some of you have been reading about this time last year when Esme Grace returned to reception after her first ever half term holiday. It is unbelievable to me that a whole 12 months has passed and here we are again... 

I'm wondering how much has changed. Reading back, it would appear not a lot. My bright, confident little Esme has got to the same point in the school calendar, just one year further, and decided she'd rather be at home. 

Although today, I have to say she seemed okay about going. Although that's today. And that's with the lure of the school photo. See, just the same as last year. 

So I'm left wondering, how will it be tomorrow?

I'm only asking, as my little girl lately has been crying in the mornings before school, begging me not to take her. And any parent going through that, knows it is one of the toughest things to tackle. For child and parent. 

Especially when it comes out of the blue. BUT, you see the good news here, is that Esme eventually settled into reception really well, with no other problems or anxiety about attending school for the rest of that year. Fingers crossed, history will repeat itself.

We enjoyed such a fabulous Summer together Esme and I, I've no doubt it has been difficult for her to adapt to school life all over again. And then there's the fact that her school split the classes up. Took all the youngsters out of their comfort zone, breaking up a lot of friendship groups in the process, and throwing them into not only a class with a new teacher, but with new children too.

The school says they do that, so by the time the children get to junior school, they will know and will have been in a class with every child in the year. On some level that makes sense. But on another, with children as young as Esme, it simply doesn't.

After all, she only just turned five. There are already kids in the reception year below her that are the same age. (Don't get me started on that issue. Just pop here to sign the Too Much Too Soon Petition and to read Siobhan's - from Everyone else is normal blog - thoughts on the matter, she sums it up brilliantly).

Being just five, I figured Esme was super tired. It is a long day. With loads of pressure. Not to mention homework at the end of it. And those are the days when we don't have a swim class or a play date - the latter now restricted to two days a week at most. 

Along with the tiredness though, have been Esme's many comments on why she doesn't want to go to school, including: "I don't feel safe without you Mummy."  

A few weeks back her behaviour became erratic and aggressive, to the point where she (words fail me here) pushed a two year old lad off the top of a slide. Thank goodness, his parent caught him before he was physically hurt. He was dangling 5' off the ground. 

Fortunately, this behaviour (that which is totally out of character for Esme), all seems to have returned to normal, but when will the other stuff settle down?

She has been playing alone at break, bravely telling me, "It's okay though Mummy, as there are things to climb on in the playground, and I like climbing." Then there are the occasional mentions of so and so not wanting to be her friend anymore. Something I've always been quick to disregard as kids being kids... fickle ones at that. 

The other interesting thing about this whole situation, is that when I talked to Esme's teacher about these struggles, she was very surprised, saying, Esme is one of the most enthusiastic, confident pupils in the class. She said, she'd keep an eye out so we could follow up on parents evening.

Recently, during that parents evening, she told us of how she had observed Esme in solitary play. And how Esme often lacks concentration.

I should point out here incidentally, that a year ago, Esme's reception teacher also picked up on this, however she dismissed it, saying Esme was bright. She felt that Esme had already grasped what she was teaching, and had long moved on - into fairy land.

Esme's lapses of concentration, are doubly hindered by the fact that she is easily distracted. She also has an incredible imagination. 

And so I ponder... boredom, fatigue, stress, or a developmental phase? Hopefully it is the latter. And one that will soon end with my Esme a more contented, settled child, once again in the zone of wanting to go to school.   

FOOTNOTE: Fortunately for me, Esme is an eloquent little girl, that can tell me how she feels. I'm left wondering about those children that withdraw, unable to express any sentiment?

I'm linking this to PostCommentLove


Siobhan@EveryoneElseisNormal said...

Oh Emma, how I feel for you. This is so tough, and exactly why you've signed that petition that I promoted on my blog. Let me tell you, Esme is NORMAL. Not going through any phase. Just being her normal 5 year old self who needs to day dream and go off into fairy land in her head. Why should a 5 yr old be expected to concentrate for so long? She shouldn't. In many ways she sounds so similar to my daughter, in personality. And she mentioned similar concerns re playing on her own in reception too that I worried about - AND the teacher had the same reaction, interestingly. But, I was lucky in that I never had tears when i left her at school, nor my son, so I should consider myself very lucky there. If I were you, I'd ask the teacher if you could come and sit in on some mornings, to give Esme a sense of you being a part of what she's doing. Is that poss? Is Sofia in nursery yet?

The other thing to consider, and only if you could afford it/not go mad from lack of mental space, I'd consider home schooling. I know that sounds massive, but if i rewound the clock I'd consider it. Its not for everyone, but do some research into how many other home schoolers are in your area - you may be surprised. Those who do it rave about it....Sx

Emma Oliver said...

Thanks for all this Siobhan. First of all, the thought of home schooling leaves me cold. I take my hat off to any parent that can do this. My sister for one. I could not give up my work. And I would not have the patience needed. I am far too selfish for that.
Sofia is not at nursery yet, I work when she naps (ha!) but it will be a while before she begins... due to her birthday falling Sept, they won't take her until she is three. I am currently begging them to take her Easter 2014 as she is so forward!
As I stressed in a recent post, I have talked to Esme lately, telling her that home life when she is at school, is very dull. That seems to have been a real help.
You will also see from other posts, that I took your advice, and saw the teacher. I will be going in to help out one morning a week too, starting when my mum returns from her hols. Thank you for your comment and great advice. xx

Suzanne Whitton said...

It's so hard letting your child go off into the unknown isn't it? As you say, she quickly settled into Reception and I'm sure will do the same again this year. I have a child who suffered from Separation Anxiety (and still does) but the beginning of any new term/half-term was always very difficult for her. We had tummy aches, crying and lots of very bad behaviour at home, all related to anxiety and the way this manifests itself in children. Now that she has started secondary school I felt sure this would be heightened but she went it so well and although we had a little blip 3 weeks in, she is fine now. It's a worry for us mums isn't it? Not all children breeze through life and although we're here to support them through it, I do think they need to learn little tactics themselves, to deal with it.
Monitor her behaviour at school I'm sure it's nothing and will soon pass as just another 'stage' but go and speak to her teacher if you're at all worried.
Hope it gets sorted. x

Debra Carr said...

This must be so hard for you as a mother but I'm so pleased you are looking into it. I had terrible anxiety all through my school years but it was all put down to being shy. If I had been disruptive and loud I would have been giving extra help to resolve any issues but because I was quite and worked hard I was just left. I remember reading on an infant school report that I found change hard to deal with but where was the follow up support from this comment??? I hope it all gets sorted for your little girl, I know if I had had more support from schools and teachers I would have got so much more out of school and enjoyed the challenges instead of being intimidated by them. Good luck :)

Debra Carr said...


Emma Oliver said...

Sorry I've been quiet - I don't always get the time to respond right away. Thanks so much for your comment and well wishes. It is sad to hear what you went through at school. I guess this reminds us all as parents to be vigilant and sensitive to our children and their needs. A class of 33 means some will always miss out somewhere along the way. The quiet ones are those that are often overlooked. And this is so wrong.

Emma Oliver said...

Ah thanks for sharing Suzanne. I am so glad for you that she has handled the transition into secondary school so well. You must feel so relieved.
As you say, Esme settled into reception last year by this time, so I am now hoping that we will turn that same corner with her now in Y1. Cheers!

Victoria Welton said...

Poor Esme, bless her. This is EXACTLY how Grace was at this stage in her schooling and I have to say that as Christmas got nearer, she got better. Then the Christmas holidays happened and she was upset all over again! Then, as we got nearer Easter, she settled down again and has been fine ever since (apart from when she started her new school but I expected that!). Hope it all settles soon. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo lovely x