Dear Jenny

Parenting - - In This Issue -

Our shy daugh­ter is strug­gling to set­tle at kindy

We chose our three-year-old daugh­ter’s preschool very care­fully as she is a sen­si­tive girl and can get anx­ious eas­ily. Loud noises bother her and if she gets hurt, she won’t let any­one at­tend to her. We were de­lighted when she ini­tially set­tled in quite well. How­ever, the good start is over and she is now strug­gling to stay set­tled and wor­ries about go­ing. Each day, she asks us if to­day is the day she has to go. Even on the way there, she is un­happy and tense and if I stay she just seems ner­vous about where I am and when I am go­ing. The teach­ers as­sure me that she is okay when I have gone, but I still worry about her and won­der if there is some­thing else I could be do­ing to help her set­tle in and like it there more. My hus­band has also dropped her off but it hasn’t made any dif­fer­ence. She clings to him too. She is also like this when we go to some­one’s house or to a party. Jessie won’t say hello to any­one and that just makes it harder for her to connect with the peo­ple we are vis­it­ing. She just holds on to us and re­fuses to par­tic­i­pate. I can tell she re­ally wants to, but just won’t let go. We have used lots of bribes and threats to get her to join in – and at times I have been up­set with her be­cause she misses out on the fun. I am prob­a­bly ex­tra-frus­trated by this be­cause I see my­self in her – this is what I was like at her age and it took me years to ever re­ally set­tle into school.

Some of Jenny Hale's tips:

It is tough on ev­ery­one when a child finds preschool or school a hard place to set­tle into. Some chil­dren are just go­ing to find it harder than oth­ers, es­pe­cially if they are more sen­si­tive to new places, rou­tines, peo­ple and the un­ex­pected. Pa­tience and calm will help, while bribes and threats will only add more ten­sion. A great place to start is help­ing a child get over the bar­rier of say­ing “Hello” to the teacher or per­son you are vis­it­ing. Once they can do this, it is much eas­ier for them to connect with the other things that are go­ing on. Once they have done some­thing brave they can feel con­fi­dent about join­ing the shared ac­tiv­ity, or talk­ing to a new friend. Keep in mind a child may not want to greet any­one, but you can firmly and kindly guide them. Once they have con­quered a greet­ing, watch them go!

Let Jessie know you ex­pect her to re­spond to the teacher and if she re­fuses, gen­tly let her know that you will both just sit on the bench out­side kindy un­til she is ready to say “Hello”. No huff­ing or puff­ing or brib­ing is nec­es­sary – but it will help if you can stay kind, firm and calm. Chil­dren are amaz­ing. They will work out if this is what you re­ally ex­pect, or if you are just hop­ing will work. It may take a few trips back to the bench and could feel awk­ward, so let the teacher know your plan. Jessie will sniff out your re­solve in time.

The clock is a great help for mak­ing the tran­si­tion to your leav­ing. Let Jessie know you will stay for five or 10 min­utes. Show her what five min­utes means and point to the clock or your watch so she sees that you are fol­low­ing a sys­tem.

Help Jessie with this big tran­si­tion by mak­ing a book with a few pages show­ing the dif­fer­ent stages of go­ing to kindy. Your own draw­ings are all that is needed – pho­tos work well too. Draw the steps that are in­volved: get­ting into the car, driv­ing, walk­ing in, then wav­ing good­bye to Mum or Dad. Read the story over and again. The fi­nal page can be a flower with pe­tals that Jessie can colour when she has man­aged to wave or say good­bye to you. You might like to in­clude a pic­ture of a prize she might get when the pe­tals are all coloured. This helps keep a child fo­cused on the good things and less anx­ious about leav­ing you. When the flower is com­pleted, cel­e­brate with some­thing spe­cial like a trip to the park or an ice cream.

The out­come

Jessie’s par­ents felt more con­fi­dent just by hav­ing some new ideas to try and some prac­ti­cal things to do. They had got caught up in talk­ing too much about kindy in the hope that Jessie would un­der­stand and just get on with it.

Both of them were stunned by the short amount of time it took for Jessie to make the big step of say­ing hello and good­bye to her teach­ers. They had an­tic­i­pated a stand-off pe­riod so were blown away by how quickly she picked up the new rou­tine. Jessie’s mum ob­served that not only was she greet­ing her teach­ers, but she was also talk­ing to the other chil­dren which she had not been do­ing be­fore. It was like a domino ef­fect with Jessie find­ing her voice, en­gag­ing with new chil­dren and new ac­tiv­i­ties and even an­swer­ing ques­tions at mat time.

Jessie’s par­ents were over the moon. They could not be­lieve their ears when they heard their once shy, tense and anx­ious child say one day at pick up time “I love kindy now Mummy and I didn’t cry.”

It was like they had a new girl who had grown more con­fi­dent and was happy to go to kindy, happy to have friends over and even happy to join in at party time. The re­lief was enor­mous and there was re­as­sur­ance that although Jessie may al­ways be on the shy side, she wasn’t miss­ing out on the good things life and kindy have to of­fer.

Keep in mind a child may not want to greet any­one,

but you can

guide them.

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