Ganny asks:

Can anxiety change or make a child act different?

My granddaughter has just turned six, she has started Kindergarten and it has been hard,she is not sure of being away from home, she was not crying, she liked her teacher,you could tell she was scared but she acted as though she wanted to go, we  would tell her she was going to have so much fun,and we would get a scared smile, but in she would go,  but they changed teachers after three weeks, now she is crying, just does not want to go, I try to go and eat lunch once a week, on that day it helps,but she acts so scared, she is not making friends and it is getting worse. At bed time she will start to cry and when we ask why she is crying, she said " when I wake up I have to go to school.
Tonight she wanted to spend the night but when I said I could take her to school, she cried and ended up in staying at home.She told me her heart hurt, when I ask where, how does it hurt, She said " It's just so sad!
To make things worse, her mom and dad are not getting along, she tells me they are yelling at each other. That is something she has never had to here before, I have talked to them about this, there is a six year older sister and a four year old brother still a home, Please Help! How can I help her? Is she not ready?, or is there emotionally something we need to check out?When I ask about her talking to make friends, she said" you can not talk", at play she stays to herself and watches the other children.This is so hard for me and she really is looking washed out, Help Please
In Topics: Kindergarten readiness, Anxiety
> 60 days ago



Oct 1, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Ganny,

I am so very sorry to hear that your granddaughter is struggling. It sounds like she is under a great deal of stress with the conflict in the home, and I imagine that this is greatly influencing her feelings about school and her inability to cope with stressors there. Although, I can't specifically diagnose or prescribe a treatment, I think that there are a number of things that you and her parents can do to ease the burden of worry that your sweet granddaughter is carrying at this time.

1. I suggest that you and/or her parents make an appointment to speak with her teacher and brainstorm strategies for supporting your granddaughter at school. In the meeting with her teacher, share your observations and concerns and discuss a desire to develop a plan for easing the stress of school days. Some ideas that you can propose include the following:

    a) Ask if your granddaughter can have a special job in the classroom or "help" that she can provide ten minutes before class starts each day (for the next couple of weeks). Your granddaughter would do well to have a few moments before class starts each day to get to know the teacher better and develop a greater sense of comfort in the classroom before the other students arrive. Her job(s) could be easy and simple (e.g., making sure that the pencil sharpener has been emptied, all of the markers have their caps on, etc).

    b) Inquire about available social skills groups at the school. Many school counselors or psychologists provide a weekly social skills group to teach core skills on entering a peer group, asking peers to play, collaboration, etc.

   c) Discuss two or three ideas for easing your granddaughter into school and schedule another meeting in two weeks to follow-up on progress made.

2. Help your granddaughter to develop positive coping strategies to deal with worry and stress. Let her know that it is normal and understandable to feel worried about her family and school. There are a number of wonderful relaxation books (some are available at the library) that can be used each and every night to help her learn to calm and relax herself. "Goodnight Caterpillar" by Lori Lite and Kimberly Fox is a lovely story that teaches children proven relaxations strategies, such as progressive muscle relaxation. I have included a link to the book on Amazon below.

3. Finally, I would talk with her parents again about the importance of modeling positive communication in front of their daughter. Invite them to sit down with your daughter and talk to her about the recent fighting. Ideally, they would let her know that many couples struggle to communicate, and they have been having an especially hard time. They are not fighting about her, and she has nothing to do with the conflict. They should let her know that they are committed to working on the relationship, and they will do all they can to improve their relationship. It is an important lesson for your daughter to learn that couples do disagree, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate good communication.

Good luck and be well.

Warm regards,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist JustAsk Expert
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