Nicolette12 asks:

My daughter's in grade 1. She's struggling to like school.

My daughter is 6yrs old in July, she's in a new school this year. She cries everyday because she don't like school, She's having trouble making friends, it's not because she shy because she plays with the older kids in the school, just not with her classmates. Last week she approached her classmates and asked what she's doing and the girl screamed at her to leave her alone and another child followed her action, it breaks my heart to watch. Last week the same girl talked about her behind her back when we walked away. I think some other kids also pick on her, she said she doesn't have a good friend in the class. We had a meeting with the teacher 6 weeks into the school year she suggested I put her back to kindergarten she's struggling academically, always the last to finish her assignment and had to redo. She the smallest in her class she don't like to play the games the other kids play.

She was in a full day kindergarten program last year and she did very well, had no trouble making friends from preschool to kindergarten. If I put her back to kindergarten it will be half days and I have no childcare. I had no trouble getting her to school until this year, she don't like changes. I have told my daughter to ask the teacher if she don't understand the assignment and she said the teacher will not repeat her instructions twice. I don't know what to do this school is very academic focus. I am thinking of changing schools, don't think it a solution.
In Topics: Working with my child's teacher(s), Motivation and achievement at school, Communicating with my child (The tough talks)
> 60 days ago



Oct 22, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

This is a tough and very important issue.  I think that the respondee, 4thgradetea, has offered some very good ideas.  I would embellish just a bit.
About the anxiety. It does appear that your little girl does have anxiety, but it is hard to tell whether the anxiety has arisen from her difficulties at school, or has contributed to them. My guess is it is a circular issue, and the whether the chicken or egg came first, may be less crucial than addressing the anxiety and the academic dilemma.  

Here are some suggestions:

Does your school district have a process for recommending a child to special education services?  It is possible that your daughter might qualify for some specially designed instruction. It might be time to arrange a meeting with not just the teacher, but also the principal and discuss the process for referring her to special education. This might serve her better than demoting her to kindergarten at this point in the year.  Specially designed education can help with the academic issues, the social issues, and the emotionally issues depending on the services available in your district.  

From your description of what is happening, it sounds like your daughter is the target of some bullying. Schools today are aware of bullying and many have putting an end to bullying as their mission. This might be an important conversation to have with the principal. There may be some way to address bullying within your daughter's class and possibly within the school itself to try to teach/train against this type of behavior.

You mention that your daughter had friends last year and did well.  You do not say whether some of these friends are in her current class. You might want to arrange some play dates with some of the kids she liked and did well with.  This is a way to encourage her social skills and her self-esteem.

For your daughter's emotional health, you can reassure her that sometimes these things happen and children can be mean.  Tell her this does not mean she is bad or that there is something wrong with her.  This is how sometimes some children behave.  Help her to learn to put her attention elsewhere when the other kids do not behave correctly.  

If your child appears to continue to have emotional difficulties as you sort through all of this, consider the services of a professional.  Child social workers and psychologists are trained to help with these types of issues.  The school or your daughter's doctor can guide you to good resources of this nature.

Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP
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Additional Answers (1)

4thgradetea... writes:

There are several issues stated in your letter.  Sometimes I find it helpful to break my issues into chunks so that I can address each challenge individually.

The first issue is that your daughter has anxiety about going to school each day.  Deal with this first.  If your mornings are crazy like they are at my house (  :) ), then draw out a morning routine with your daughter one evening.  In the routine, your daughter can draw herself doing many things that she enjoys at home like brushing her hair, or choosing which shirt to wear.  As she draws, observe by making statements like, "I see that you are being such a responsible girl in this picture choosing your clothes. How do you feel about having that choice each day?"  You can share with your daughter some of the choices that you make each day that make you feel proud or independent.  The idea here is to reinforce that sometimes we choose things on our own that can make us feel good because we like choosing.
Post your daughters routine where she can see it in the morning, so that she can concentrate on good feelings about starting her day.  

If your daughter rides a bus, it may be worthwhile to teach your daughter a few simple songs like itsy bitsy spider which she can hum quietly to herself for comfort.  Small children enjoy routine and often feel calmed by singing.  Make silly motions when you sing at home.  If she starts to feel upset on her way to school, encourage her to think about singing the song with you being silly.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, arrange to go to school and talk with your daughter's teacher.  Let the teacher know what you are doing at home to help your daughter feel positively before and after school.  Let the teacher know that you are working on this, and ask the teacher several things:

1) Does the school have a Guidance program?  Could your daughter meet the Guidance counselor for support?

2) Could the teacher share contact information of other parents with you?  Perhaps you and your daughter could arrange to invite a few parents and students to a park for some playtime.  Our school Guidance counselor tells my students, "If you want a friend, be a friend".  Chance are that if your daughter get's to know some students outside of school under the supervision of you and other parents, the kids relationships may blossom into friendships.  Who knows?  You may even make a few friends too!

Finally, here is an idea that I got from a good friend.  Make a cloudy box with your daughter and a sunshine box too.  Your daughter can draw sad things that happened to her during her day and put them in the cloudy box.  After she has drawn them, she can tell you about it, and then she can put it inside the box.  By drawing and telling you what has upset her, hopefully your daughter can learn a constructive way of dealing with sad things.  If your daughter doesn't have a sunshine for the day, draw a picture of a small thing from your day that made you happy, and show her your picture.  Talk to her about how that thing made you feel happy.  Then offer it to your daughter to put inside her sunshine box.  The idea with these boxes is to help your daughter see that everyone has troubles, but that we should look for good things too.  

Good luck Nicolette!

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