Thursday, May 30, 2019

Transitions to Kindergarten: Big feelings before moving on!

My son (will be 6 in July) has been showing strange behaviors like peeing on the carpet when he is angry. I think he has high anxiety; he eats his nails and chews on everything so hard. His anger and anxiety are much more extreme lately over the last month. He always had a habit of putting EVERYTHING in his mouth. He started to bite his nails right after his sister was born for a year. He stopped after a year with a reward system and he started again recently.
No problem at all at school, he is moving to Kindergarten in the fall. He is nice and kind to others and rational. He is respectful to his teachers and listens. He is very popular and everybody wants to play with him. He is extremely talented in sports and plays all day long. He is super energetic and active.

I know he is doing all these to get attention but we do give him all the attention we can. I have been getting help from different child psychologists, going to lectures and etc. Nothing works!

This is usually the time of the year when children transitioning from pre-k to K start worrying about the transition and this might be the reason for his anxiety and why he is sowing these behaviors. The end of the year is approaching; teachers are probably talking more about it. He knows a big change is coming. He is anxious about it (the same way he was when her sister was born). Since he is very popular and everybody wants to play with him, the idea of going to a new school where he doesn't know anybody can be scary. It's like going to a party where you don't know anybody. He just can’t  verbalize it yet.

Also, it is not uncommon for children to let it all out at home after a long day at school of keeping it together. It is hard I know. 

How you can support him:

1) Talk to him and tell him you have noticed that sometimes when he is nervous he is biting his nails so you got him a special box with some things that can help at those moments. That way he can start to recognize it and have a different outlet for it. I call it a relaxation box: Fill a box with relaxing activities chosen by him and create a relaxation center somewhere in your home. You might include music, coloring books, fidget toys, a mini sandbox, clay, books, and stuffed animals. If you notice him biting his nails you can tell him, "You are biting your nails, let's use the box so your nails don't hurt afterward" (this way you are giving him an internal motivation not to bite his nails and giving him a healthy outlet for his feelings).

2) Tell him when he is calm that whenever he feels worried he can tell you about it. If you are not around he can make a picture and give it to you. Later when you have the time you can sit with him and write about it, if he feels like it. Just ask questions and instead of telling him not to worry try to say: "I know that can be worrisome sometimes". You want to create a space where he can share anything with you.

3) Share stories of situations when you went to school for the first time or did not know anybody at a place. Share how asking for people's names or sitting next to somebody helped you make a friend. Books are also a great resource:

4) A couple of weeks before starting kindergarten, ask him if he has any questions about his new school; if he hasn’t brought it up before. More than getting him excited about the new school, your role is to support him in the process. If he doesn't have anything to say about it you can tell him that the new school will have things that are similar to his preschool and others that will be different. The teacher will be there to help him.
Here is the mom’s response after a few weeks of our consultation. While not everything was solved in a week what I enjoyed the most was seeing how this mom's perspective changed. By doing that, she found new ways to support his son not only in difficult situations but throughout his day. 

I used some of your strategies and I think things are much better. He still bites his nails. I was just thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives. He has a lot more anxiety and stress than just transition to kindergarten. We are actively looking to buy a new house and talk about different options at home.
He will go to our home school but that could change if we move and that discussion comes up every time we put an offer on a house or we see a house we like. I can’t even get him excited about our home school now because we might move. Also, we won’t keep our current nanny whom he is very close to if we move and he knows that. So all these unknowns are adding to his anxiety.

Since we realized that, we decided not to talk about houses or schools too much in front of him. Also, I’m taking it very easy on his eating habits, which has been always an issue with him. He is a very picky and difficult eater. I’m starting to take it very easy on him knowing everything else that’s going on in his life right now. So I think doing these 2 things have helped him calm down a little as well as the tools you gave me to use.

I asked him about nail-biting and he said he is not doing that because he is stressed but I think he is just saying that!

Thanks for all your help!

As we align our thoughts, our words and our actions everything starts falling into place, even when you don't see results right away. Change takes time and comes with different kinds of feelings. Take a deep breath. You have everything you need to handle this situation! 

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