Our children are heading back to school. Every where we look there are reminders; new uniforms, lunch boxes and of course new stationery….
I am reminded of a particular horrendous time with my son, who has ADHD, standing in the aisle of a crowded WH Smiths. He was desperate to have a particular Disney princess pop up pencil case.
I told him it was too girly, too expensive, too big, too unnecessary. I came up with all the excuses why he shouldn’t have it. Of course, if I could wind back time I would do it all differently. Maybe get him to earn the money for it. I wouldn’t care about him loving pink and princesses. I would understand that this was just a fun thing to have. I certainly wouldn’t let it get to the full blown tantrum that it became. I remember that awful feeling of embarrassment. The shame. I felt like a complete failure as a parent.
And this wasn’t a battle to have.
He wanted it for his own reasons and no amount of adult persuasion was going to change his mind.
I can now recognise that he was trying to let me know something. He was feeling really anxious about going back to school and this would have given him a tiny bit of joy. The idea of the different gadgets was a forerunner of the fidget spinners. He stood there for ages popping, shutting and twisting. The hyper focus part of him blocked out everything else. And of course he totally loved Disney! He had no concept of money and so telling him it’s expensive and a waste of money didn’t cut it with him.
It’s a standing joke with my now 30 year old, that I never allowed him this bloody pencil case.
By the way, he’s moved from Disney to Britney……..
So what’s going on with your child in the run up to school…..?
Your child may be feeling a little worried about going back to school. He may be starting to become more quiet and distant. Going off into his room. Or conversely may be becoming rude, argumentative and aggressive.
My advice would be to make him know that you realise he has worries. For him to know that you know is hugely comforting for our little people. But worries are okay. It is a normal emotion. Butterflies in our tummy, dry mouth and racing heart are all physical signs that we all experience. Adrenaline is a hormone that we all need to put us in fight or flight mode. It only becomes a problem if that worry becomes too big and stops your child from experiencing day-to-day life.
When your child expresses a concern, listen and take it seriously. Ask him what he wants you to do. Sometimes just sharing it is enough.
You could try a worry monster or a make a worry box. Your child writes a worry on a piece of paper and posts it in the box. Cognitive behaviour therapists explain the success of this as the act of writing releases the stress of feeling alone with the thought and by putting it in a container the thought is removed from your child’s consciousness.
You could make the box together and decorate it. At a certain time you would talk about the worries – but not before bedtime.
Make talking a usual part of your every day. At mealtimes, in the car, whilst walking. Ask open ended questions. Make statements. Have a conversation with yourself and your child will soon join in! Build up a great relationship and your child will be more likely to let you know when he’s feeling nervous or worried.
As mentioned, your child’s behaviour may start to decline the nearer we get to the start of school. Try and ignore as much as possible. Instead use the power of distraction, notice the little things he does well, fill his day with motivating activities, keep unmotivating things short, have fewer rules and more treats. You aren’t rewarding bad behaviour. You are understanding that the behaviour is your child communicating to you that he is starting to think about school and it’s not a good thought…
Let your child know that this year you and the school will all work together as a team to support his needs. I suggest you set up an early meeting with the class teacher and let her know what works for your child, what equipment he needs, what his talents and skills are, how he learns best and what things definitely don’t work.
So in retrospect, the pop-up pencil case taught me a valuable lesson. There is always a reason behind unwanted behaviour. We have to be detectives and work out what our children are trying to tell us.
Hope some of that helps.
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