Hello, My 4 year old just started junior kindergarten in Sept. She is having a really hard time adjusting. She is very quite and refuses to speak in the classroom but will talk one on one or on the bus when there is only one child sitting next to her. Her behaviour at school is troubling for the teachers since they cannot predict when she will act out (scream, lie on the floor, refuse to do something that is asked, or throw her food on the floor). Transitions seem to be a real trigger (getting dressed or undressed in the cubby, going to lunch). I think she is overwhelmed and I dropped her down to 1/2 days to help reduce the amount of time she is stressed/overwhelmed. Is there any ideas on how to help her deal with the transitions? She has trouble at home sometimes with transitions but I just thought it was age appropriate, she has her own agenda, type of thing.
It sounds like you are already doing some great thinking around this transition by reducing the amount of time she is in school.
When kiddos have a lot of trouble with transitions, it’s usually because there is some chunk of FEAR stuck in their limbic system. You may be able to point to some difficulties she had early in her life or maybe not. We don’t really have to know. What we do want to do is work on creating more SAFETY and CONNECTION and give your sweet girl a chance to offload some feelings at home, rather than at school.
Here are the steps for helping her with this EMOTIONAL PROJECT:
– Get lots of LISTENING TIME yourself in a Listening Partnership. When our kiddo is having a really tough time, we can feel at the end of our rope. We’ve collected fear and frustration in our own emotional backpack. We want to have more capacity to listen to them, connect with them, be playful and patient with them. We want to be able to be relaxed about the situation. The more relaxed we can be, the more safe they will feel.
– Do more SPECIAL TIME so that there is more connection – more Special Time will help you move through the EP faster and keep your relationship in balance because you are going to be setting limits earlier and more often. Do Special Time in shorter doses and more often. 5-7 minutes of Special Time 2 or 3xs each day will provide more connection and – since the timer is a natural limit.. the timer going off will give her more opportunities to bump up against a transition and have big feelings around how hard it is. A tantrum at the end of Special Time is a good thing!
– Look for more opportunities to SET LITTLE LIMITS. You actually want to welcome big tantrums at home and try not to avoid them by appeasing, negotiating or working around her demands. For example, if you usually help her put on her shoes so you can get out the door, try to leave enough time to hold the expectation that she can put on her shoes. No explanation or reasoning. Just say, ‘sweetie, you can do it. I know you can’. If she lets it rip, that’s a really good thing. Then you STAYLISTEN, knowing that she is offloading the FEAR that is causing her to have such a tough time at school.
– Look for ways to make transitions PLAYFUL. We want to make sure that we are using ALL the tools when working on an emotional project. Going for the giggles when you set a limit or hold an expectation will give you lightness, help you stay connected and give you a break from the tougher staylistening times. LAUGHTER is sooo connecting and it is also offloading lighter fears. Know that you are making progress by playing, too.
– Do lots of Rough ‘N Tumble play where you take the less powerful role. Fear makes us feel really powerless. You taking the less powerful role and letting her win physically will help counter those feelings of powerlessness.
Last 2 points:
– Look for how she is IN-BETWEEN the tantrums. When working on an emotional project, the tantrums may not lessen in size or frequency, but you will see more lightness, flexibility in between the tantrums
– Don’t worry about consistency. For example, if you don’t have the capacity to staylisten during a transition, it’s ok to try to work around the upset. You won’t lose ground. Consistent Connection is what is most important.
Here are 3 more good resources:
I know I’ve given you a lot to look at. Since we need to use ALL the tools when helping our kiddos with an Emotional Project, I wanted to give you a success story for each step. The first and most important is for YOU to get Listening Time. Fire back with more questions, and let us know if you’d like some help with a Listening Partner or any part of this.
Your daughter is so lucky to have an awesome Mama who’s reaching out for her. You rock, good Mama!
Peace & Smiles,
Parenting by Connection Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi
Thank you Kathy! This is VERY helpful! I am doing some of these things but it really helps to see all of your suggestions because, I agree, she is working on a big emotional project. I have tried a few times to find a listening partner but then I stopped because I’m on call with the school (due to her behaviour) so I’m never sure how long I will have in the morning before I have to pick her up. I might be safe to do listening time with someone first thing in the morning. Do you think posting in this forum would be the best? I already tried the Facebook page for listening partnerships. I could try there again I suppose.
Also, I have a question about setting a limit at quiet time. I try to make her afternoon similar to the school day so she can hopefully transition back eventually. We have lunch and then quite time. She has been very resistant to lying down quietly, so I get her to lie down with me. After a few minutes she started getting really uncomfortable and the tears start coming. She started screaming that she doesn’t want me to hold her so I told her I would just gently put my arms around her. This caused more crying and screaming until she started to run away. I didn’t want to push too much with her asking me not to touch/hold her so I let her run into her room. I feel like she would have cried more if I held her tightly but I’m conflicted about doing that when she is screaming no. Any thoughts?
Thanks again Kathy!