Should I enrol my child at another school?

by Patricia Koh, Founder-Director

MY FOUR-YEAR-OLD son started attending nursery class this year. He has never cried in previous playgroups nor in this class, and has always been very enthusiastic and cheerful. But lately, he has been very reluctant to go and starts crying when we leave him in class.

At first I thought he was just being lazy, but after some probing, I realised he is afraid to attend class because a teacher once did not allow him to go to the toilet. The teacher confirmed that the incident happened, but only because she was attending to too many children at that time. I've asked her to reassure my son but he is still afraid to attend her lessons.

I am now keeping him at home temporarily. He is able to sleep well and is becoming cheerful again. He has also been asking enthusiastically when he can go back to school. Should we enrol him in the same nursery, with the same teacher, or look for another school for him?

COMMUNICATION between you and your son is very important in helping him cope with frightening or unfamiliar events, places and people. Encourage him to verbalise his fears and listen without being critical, helping him to think through realities rationally. Revealing his fears by telling them to someone he trusts can help him overcome irrational, unrealistic thoughts.

Your son seems to be afraid of the teacher because she did not allow him to use the toilet during one of her busy moments. This fear can be overcome if the teacher is willing to work with you, by talking to him and helping him understand that everything will be alright when he returns.

But if your son has been traumatised by the incident and continues to exhibit fearful behaviour even after meeting his teacher, you might like to take the cue from him and find him another teacher or school. There are some good books to read to your son to help him learn how to cope with his fears, and encourage him to talk about his feelings and thoughts.

I recommend Mercer Mayer's Little Critter Books, especially There's A Nightmare In My Closet and Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are.


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