School will be starting again soon. Very soon. 14 days. But writing that makes it feel as if it's not really that soon, so already I feel a bit better writing this down. But it's still looming. And I feel it in every cell of my body. Ugh.
Here's the deal. DD is extremely anxious about school. I have written a little about this before. She has what I call an unofficially diagnosed anxiety disorder. Whatever that means. What it means in real life is that she handles transitions differently than the "average" child. This is true for small transitions, such as a friend arriving or leaving, to huge transitions, such as starting a new school. She handles the smaller transitions by never saying hello or goodbye when people arrive or leave (that includes strangers or those who are close to her, including me.) She handles the bigger transitions in direct ways ("I won't be going to school) and indirect ways (large fear of needing to use the bathroom while at school, which became such an intense focus during the end of the last school year that it spanned the summer break.)
To add to this, DD is being parented by not one, but two people who also have some difficulty managing anxiety effectively. Ak! For my part, I'm not always sure I can make the best decisions for her based on my tendency to avoid stressful situations myself. I spend a lot of time processing and questioning every situation. I also come at all of this with a bit of impatience. Not lack of empathy. Of that I have plenty. But I do become impatient easily. And so.
This year, DD will be attending a new school. No, not the easiest thing for a child with transition issues. But I strongly feel that the potential benefits of the new school will make the transition worth while. I am so hopeful!!
When faced with a transition, I try to mentally pull myself back from the situation and look at it objectively. What makes a new situation less scary? Familiarity, right? So I've made it my job to help DD become familiar with the new school. I tried on four different occasions to get together with the family of another girl who attends the new school. When I visited the school with DD (the visits are normally drop-off, but not with DD! She would have none of that.) there were three girls who approached us, after we had been there for an hour, to gently say hello. There was one who especially impressed me as being someone that DD might bond with. I contacted her mother, who readily agreed to get together with us. But after four attempts, and four times of it not working out on their end, I gave up. Damn! I kept in close contact with the Head of School, and communicated openly with her about DD's anxieties and the potential for a difficult initial transition. She agreed with me that several visits to the school during the summer would be a good idea. This has translated into two visits (sighs,) the second of which is today. Just before the first visit a couple of weeks ago, the Head of School informed me that the Lower Elementary school teacher had announced that she was leaving. Ok, glad we didn't bond too much with her! The visit was scheduled on a day the new teacher would be there setting up. They had summer camp going on that day, and DD and DS got to see that in action. They were invited into the room with the kids, and DS quickly jumped in. In her style, DD followed him. I had that opportunity to talk with the new teacher, and the HOS, for a few minutes. DD came back to check in with me about once every two minutes. DS ignored me completely. Different kids!! The teacher made attempts to talk with DD, which were fairly successful. To her credit, she asked DD about things she was interested in, taking the spot light off of her. This is a very good tactic with DD, and she spoke freely about her garden and her cats. We had the opportunity to go out on the playground for a few minutes before leaving. DD very much wanted to go back in to say goodbye - a very good sign. I had spoken with the HOS about the camp program, and thought that it would be a very good thing for both kids to attend one week of camp. DD could get more used to the classroom she would be in, and she could be there with DS for the week. Can you guess how that went over? She flat out refused, saying she would just start school there. Ok.....
That visit was two weeks ago. In the meantime, we have had to purchase some supplies and start planning for the start of school. Of course this has meant increased anxiety on DD's part, and a few "I'm not going to school"s. And an increased concern about the bathroom.
You see, DD refuses to use the bathroom at school. Unless I'm there. Which I'm not. At the end of last school year, she was wearing a pull-up. No kidding. It was the difference between going to school a little tearful and nervous, and her having a full-out panic attack at drop-off. And this was a school she had been at for two years. It's not that she is unable. She is perfectly independent in this area at home, and often will insist on going on her own while we're out. (yay!) But not at school.
So yesterday I made the decision to offer her the pull-up option for the first week of school. Oh I didn't want to do that! But DD will also be asked to walk in to the school, from my car, with the teacher, and not me. And that's new. And scary. And huge. And after all, is it really that big a deal? Can we focus on a few mountains at a time? Will her stubborn-ness make that a bad decision in the long run? Will the new school make me proud of my decision and ease her anxiety enough to encourage her to face her fears in this area? At what point do I push? And how hard?
Let me add to all of this that DD also won't eat at school. Is this because eating results in need of the bathroom? Yes, probably. But she also doesn't like to do anything that people can watch her doing, without her approval, and that includes eating. This became an issue back in pre-k, at snack time. The kids were asked the "question of the day" while the ate, and DD refused both!
And so on.
So I'm a nervous wreck. And trying not to show it!! And of course kids are very aware.
To the school's credit, they are working with me to help her. The HOS bought a book on child anxiety. She has offered some ideas, such as suggesting DD have her own fish in the class fish tank. (Nice one! DD is very psyched about this!) And she has been very open to talking with me.
So today we visit again. And the countdown is on. Breathe in, breathe out. I just reminded her, and got an emphatic "No! I don't want to!" Ohhhhhhh.......
How to wrap
2 years ago