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Severe Separation Anxiety


Jenni B
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We have a child with us whose mum has been staying in session with him for quite some time and before he started he would come along with his brother (who had exactly the same behaviour). When mum tries to leave he screams the place down. We have tried mum leaving the room, mum leaving for 5 mins and then returning, finding out his favorite toys, building up a bond with the keyworker and other staff etc etc. I feel we been down every avenue with no improvement. Ifeel that some of the issues are due to mum not really wanting to let go, drawn out goodbyes, extra hugs (prolonging the hugs etc). The mum will often phone and say the child wont be in today because of a 'bad night' or not being well or (like today) he had taken all his clothes off and was refusing to come. I wondered if anyone had any advice to offer or any known leaflets I could get to help mum too?

 

His brother who is now at school is still going through this type of behaviour which obviously his brother witnesses everyday.

 

Jenni

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Poor little boy, it's heartbreaking when you get this sort of thing happening.We had a similar situation some years ago and you're right, mum was actually the problem, not the child.we had to gently persuade mum to leave the child fro a few minutes at a time, and he would go and stand by the window, watching for her and saying "oh dear, oh dear" over and over.if we tried to coax him away from the window, he would become very distressed, so we eventually moved our writing area to there so he could sit on a chair, but be part of an activity which was quiet and would not disturb him, but he could still watch for mum at the same time.It really was a case of being very patient for quite a long while.......................it took mum a long time to finally let go for the whole session.I had to ask her to trust us, we would phne her if there were any problems, or if he was unduly upset, etc.And we did that, so she knew we would keep our word, and she eventually started to trust us. It took time, patience and effort, but we did get through it.

As to the child refusing to come, we had one who just didn't want to come and mum would get in a real state, because she was working and had to get the child into us on time and the little one refused to dress, so i suggested she just stayed calm and said "ok, if you don't want to get dressed, that's fine.it's ok to go in your pyjamas." and one day, she did it!!Brilliant, the child arrived, we made no comment, other than a quick wink to mum and off she went.Of course, the other children wanted to know why he was i his pyjamas so we simply said that's what he wanted to wear today, and made no more of it.It didn't happen again......................so there IS light at the end of the tunnel!

Would it help if two members of staff were able to do a home visit to this child, taking some of the groups toys.....(it could be as simple as a book, or some crayons and paper?).........he could be asked to look after them and bring them back with him tomorrow, or whenever he is next due to come in??And maybe mum should be told that the situation adds to his anxieties if she delays leaving, as it shakes his trust in you.She needs to say goodbye, and reassure him that she'll be back soon and then GO!!Promise to phone her if there's a problem and keep your word.Good luck!

Edited by narnia
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Thanks Narnia, I hadnt thought of the home visit idea. We dont do them as a rule but we really are getting swamped by this one! The keyworker is exhausted trying to calm him and as he literally throws himself around in temper it is quite stressful trying to Keep him safe at the same time.

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Some excellent advise already from Narnia.

 

I've threatened to take my children to pre-school in their pyjamas before now too!

 

Does sound like Mum has the problem letting go doesn't it and needs heaps of reassurance which I'm sure you are doing.

 

I always say to parents that the moment of departure needs to be warm but brief so as not too prolong the child's anxiety, as suggested.

 

Can you liaise with the school, with the parent's permission to come up with a joint strategy for both children as this seems to be going full circle?

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we have had a similar problem as narnia, its always the mums ho make matters worse and what i cant stand is they talk about the problems, issues etc in front of thier children!!!! good advice given...you reslly just have to keep at it, get mum on your side and eventually it will work out....touch wood ive never had a failure yet :o good luck..... :)

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I feel we are failing! The child has been with us for months!!! But as I have said before, progress is so slow due to the child's irregular attendance! We are having a meeting with the mum next week, so I will put forward the suggestions and see what we can come up with. Thank you for your advice, its good to know its not just our setting!!

 

Jenni x

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We had a similar situation with a boy last year. He came in carried by mum while his younger brother walked. He was clinging on to her and would scream when she eventually went. We tried all the tactics we could think of and began to think it would never change. Like you said Mum made things worse and would keep him at home if he said he didn't want to come. We even asked dad to try bringing him and this didn't work as Dad got upset too! We found that we began to get better results when we were a bit firmer with him and started to give him slightly less attention when he was upset. We always watched him but we didn't sit cuddling him but he would wander around following anyone who was near him and gradually the other children began to talk to him and he started to stop crying for short periods of time. We really feel that a lot of his crying was temper at not getting his own way and as he began to realise that we gave him much more positive attention when he stopped crying then he began to cry less. We gave him a chair to sit on near to the door so that he could wait for mum and it became a bit of a comfort thing for him as when she first went he would get the chair himself and sit on it to wait for her. We built up gradually with the amount of time he parted from Mum and now he is in our Reception class. We were dreading him coming back but he came in from day one all smiles!!! Everyone new him from last year and they all ask if it's the same child as he is now so settled. Sometimes it just takes a long time and it will happen eventually. We talked to Mum and dad and said that we needed there help and that we needed them to trust our judgement. We asked them not to say anything if he said he didn't want to come but just to bring him and we would look after him. They worked with us in the end and I think that was what helped too.

Keep trying - the home visit sounds a good idea. It sounds as if we were really cruel to this little boy but it was a bit of reverse psychology i think!

Good luck and don't give up!

 

:o

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Jenni, you don't say how old this child is. My point of view on this is very simple - both child and parent have to be ready and if they're not, don't force the situation. We had one mum who came with her daughter every session from August to January. Her daughter eventually told her that she didn't want her to come anymore and that was the end of that. 8 months on she is now extremely confident and happy. :)

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Hmm.. not sure here who has the biggest issues the child or parent. I found something that worked for us!! the child was very unsettled and convinced that his nan would not come back to collect him after a very bad experience with the childs mother. We done all the standard things, then we encourged his nan to leave something of importance with the child. Nan left a old club card from her purse, the child thought that this would be needed to get the shopping after play group, therefore nan would be back so they could go shopping together!! The child settled and was reasured that she would be back!

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I have had many children like that. May be I'm hard but you generally know after the first day if its the child or mum, and generally its mum. I always give mum's a good talk about how they have to teach their child to be independant as if they don't the child has a miserable time. Also I tell them that they must be confident that we are going to look after their child because if they have any doubts or nerves the child will pick up it. Even if its not said body language says a lot. the child will wonder why mum's voice takes on an anxious tone every time she mentions pre-school. Mum has to be the one to make short fairwells and have a happy tone.

i once had a grandma whose child never cried when mum brought him but kicked off with grandma. I then listened to grandma's tone of voice and she would say as she was walking away "Bye don't worry you'll be alright". I asked why she said it did she think he wouldn't be alright and she said no she knew he would be fine. so I told her to stop saying and just say bye sees you later with a smile and happy voice. child never cried again.

May be I'm getting old but get a bit tougher with mum and get her to understand that her anxiety is rubbing off on her children

Sorry blame it on my age I'm getting tougher, (wasn't like it with my own :o:D ) but then I use to feel guilty cos they didn't cry and want me to stay. :( I did all the crying when they had gone but never cried infront of them. :(xD

Good luck convince mum and i'm sure things will get better.

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