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My husband and I tried to enroll our 3 1/2 year old son in a Head Start program this year. He ended up on a waiting list, but then got called back to attend a local daycare that is affiliated with the Head Start--only 15 children are attending, but they're on the same program as the children at the school. My son has been going to the same daycare since he was 6 weeks old, and as much as he was excited about going to "big school" it was a very big deal for him to leave his old daycare behind....especially since his younger sister still attends. He has begun acting very....depressed?...when I drop him off in the mornings. He's even asked if he could come to work with me instead of me taking him there. When I try talking to him about what he's done during the day, or how he's liking his teacher, he never answers me and either changes the subject or ignores me altogether. This isn't like him, and I'm beginning to get concerned. Last Friday, he cried when I woke him up because he didn't want to go, was fine by the time we got there, but told me before I left that he wants to go back to his old daycare. His father will not hear of it, because it is SO EXPENSIVE and we were barely making ends meet--the program he's on now is free. His reasoning is that "Aiden won't always like his teachers" and "you can't protect him from everything". While I understand where he's coming from, I also think that we should do everything we can for his well being--at least until he does start attending school. Financially, we're comfortable now, but--as silly as it may sound--I don't think it's worth it knowing that he's not happy. Anyways, now I'm considering taking him to his old daycare as a "drop-in" when the school has there holidays. My husband thinks this will make the situation worse. What do you think? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!


Maggie Macaulay Replied: One of the basic needs we all have is to belong. Our "belonging" gets disrupted when our circumstances change, i.e., when we move, have a new teacher, a friend moves, a new child enters a family, there is a death or divorce, or when we attend a new school. Your son is checking out how he fits into the new circumstances and how he will get his needs met there. As he shops around for new ways to belong, he may "misbehave" more or act in ways that "don't seem like him". He is simply looking for ways to get his needs met. Here are a few suggestions for assisting him with his big transition: * Continue the conversations you are having. Keep an open dialogue going so he has a space to express himself. * Avoid "feeling sorry" for him. Have empathy for his feelings. Give him encouragement. * Point out his successes each day. * Have his sister visit him at his new school. * Have friends from his old school come over for play dates. * Have friends from his new school come over as well. Mix the groups up so they all get to know each other. * Sit in on his class at the new school or observe so you will get a feel for how he is in the classroom. You will also get a feel for how the classroom is for him. * Talk with his teacher about how he is feeling and request her assistance. * I don't suggest taking him to his old school as a drop in until he is comfortable and secure in the new school. * Give him time. If he is still acting unhappy after a few weeks, please write back.
Posted On 2009-01-13 20:54:14
Rachel Russo Replied: It's very important to find out how your son is truly feeling at his new school. Perhaps, it would be helpful to speak with his teacher about his behavior and social interaction in school. There may be small things that you and/or his teacher can do to make him more comfortable in his new environment. Everything should be done to help ease his transition before considering other options. Staying at the current school could foster a sense of resilience; but if he remains unhappy, perhaps you should reconsider sending him to the former day care center.

If, however, attending this day care center is clearly unrealistic due to enconomic hardship,it may do more harm than good to take him there on "drop in" days.

Posted On 2008-12-03 17:35:03
Christine Bradley Replied: Taking Aidan back to his old daycare will assist him as he struggles through this step towards independence. His old daycare has been a vital part of his reality since he was 6 months old. Naturally, Aidan was excited to go to the ‘big school' because the task of the child is to stretch beyond their comfort zone and discover new worlds to participate in. However, as before with demonstrating independence, Aidan needs to know that he can come back to comfort and safety and this builds trust. At 3.5, Aidan needs to experience the comfort, safety and trust of being able to return, not only to his mother's lap, but to his old school, teachers and friends, which are very important to him. , The reality is that Aidan cannot return full time and so it becomes important that this is made clear to him so that his inner guide drawing him towards independence and new challenges is free to explore this. It is natural that Aidan's feelings of anger and sad would come up strongly because at this stage, he hasn't developed the reasoning capabilities to moderate the expressions of them which comes primarily at the next stage of development. At this age, it is important that Aidan experiences his very real feelings and if he doesn't express them through his words, then you might show him other ways to express them. For example, you may hold him when he is crying and sound back the validity of his sadness, "I see you're sad and hurt. Would you like to tell me what it's like to miss your friends?" You may hear him in his anger and show him a safe way to express it by giving him a pillow and showing him how to hit it. You might say, "I see you're angry. Would you like to hit a pillow and be as angry as you can?" Showing Aidan how to safely express his feelings to those who love him is a valuable lesson. A return to the old school will give Aidan a trust-building opportunity to experience comfort and safety, a necessary step to successfully moving forward. By focusing on this transition, you can show Aidan how and what to look for upon returning to his new school. Perhaps Aidan will bring stories or a picture to share from the new school to his old friends and teachers. Perhaps he could paint, draw, build and take a photo of something that he likes to do at his old school and then bring this with him to his new school to keep in a safe place. It is important to keep the focus on transition and how Aidan can move from one environment to the next with ease, taking what he needs to remind him on his journey. By making this a rich, sensorial experience in transition for Aidan, you are supplying his abstract mind with a meaningful information that he will draw on for a lifetime. I hope this helps!
Posted On 2008-11-24 13:35:08
Janet Price Replied: This is indeed a difficult situation! As Aiden's mom you want him to feel comfortable at school and happy! I understand your concerns. Some suggestions: Contact Aiden's teacher and ask for a meeting. Having an opportunity to meet with the teacher face-to-face will hopefully provide you with some information about how she thinks Aiden is doing, both with adjusting to a brand new program and successfully navigating the school day. You can also use this meeting to share your own observations and concerns. Second, arrange with the teacher a time when you can visit the classroom. This will give you an opportunity to experience the classroom first hand... is it a friendly and welcoming classroom? How does the teacher interact with all of the students, including Aiden? What is Aiden like when he is there? Does he interact with other children? Does he look comfortable, or lost and sad? Taking these steps will give you some specific information with which to make a decision about what next steps, if any, you need to take to ensure that Aiden is in the appropriate placement for his learning needs. Your husband is right when he says that Aiden will have some teachers who are a better match for Aiden than others. Our job as parents is to walk that fine line between when to intervene and change teachers or programs, and when to let our child survive for the year and hope that next year will be a better fit. Until you find out more about his present situation and why Aiden is so unhappy there it will be difficult to answer that question. It is important for Aiden to feel safe, welcomed, and comfortable in his classroom. Lastly, I do not think it is a good idea at this time to have Aiden go back and spend time at his former day care. Until he starts to feel comfortable in his new classroom such a visit could undermine that transition process by confusing him and reminding him of the site that he is missing. Best wishes as you continue to be an involved parent in support of Aiden having a successful school experience.
Posted On 2008-10-10 17:19:06
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