Thursday, January 13, 2011

Anxiety or Control? I Need Advice

Here's the story.  My 3 year old son seems to be suffering from separation anxiety.  It started in the beginning of December.  Suddenly he didn't want to go to preschool and he refused to let me leave him there.  This after three months of him being just fine.  It goes farther.  If I step into the garage to throw something away, he's immediately behind me checking where I went.  If I go upstairs, same thing. 

With school, I figured he wasn't feeling well that day, he when to his Christmas party but I was there with him. I thought he'd be ready to go back after the break.  Not so. 

If anything he got worse.  I can't gas up my van without him freaking out.  The last time I literally had to roll his window down while I pumped the gas so he could see me, even though I stand right next to his window practically the whole time.  The only time he didn't cry was when that window open.

I have had to sit throw two entire sessions of preschool in an attempt to get him resocialize there.  Once he's assured that I'm not going to leave, he plays and has lots of fun and has no problem interacting with the teachers. 

I thought we were making some progress though until this morning when I went to have my shower.  Now he was fine with me being by myself until he was all ready. I had come out, wrapped in a towel to help him with his pants and told he could sit on my bed and look at a book until I finished getting ready.  I went back in my bathroom and closed the door.  Not five minutes later, he pushes the door open and I tell him it needs to be closed so mommy can have some privacy.  I close the door and he proceeds to cry and bang the door saying he needs me.  I told him that if he could not stop crying then he'd have to leave my room completely.  I can't stand listening to crying, it absolutely drives me up a wall, pushes all my buttons etc.  So finally, I make him leave my room and close the door.  Of course, he gets more mad and cries louder. 

Once I was finished getting ready, I went back into my bedroom and told him that I wasn't opening the door until he stopped crying.  Finally, he stopped.  We're talking like 15 minutes.  I go out and he's all snotty and sniffling and giving me the whole sad eyes thing.  At this point I'm not feeling very sympathetic.  It's not like it's the first time I've had a shower, it's not like it's the first time I've asked for privacy.  He can hear me the whole time. 

My mother tells me I'm allowing him to control me, the preschool teacher is concerned about retraumatizing him if I just leave him there to cry, and my husband tells me to cancel preschool since it's a complete waste of my time sitting there.  My mother has suggested that if he says he doesn't want to stay at school then I take him home and not play with him so he will realize what he's missing out on.  That's not going to work because he wants to go home.  He's perfectly satisfied being at home. The last time I had to stay at preschool, he wanted to go out to his grandparents after and I told him we couldn't since mommy had to stay at school with him, I needed to do work that afternoon.  He came home, I worked on the computer and he entertained himself.

The only thing that I have done that may possibly contributed to this was that when I took E to her jazz class, I'd leave O and J in the van watching a movie while I walked E to her school. Now, I parked across the street from the school so that the van has completely visibility of the front door of the school.  I walked E across the road, helped her switch her shoes, outside, and saw her through the door and walked back. I had done this the once a week since before October.  The last time I did that at the end of November he freaked out and managed to un lock the doors and was crying and yelling for me.  I think what had happened is that another parent chose to stop in the middle of the road (instead of parking) and just let the kid hop out.  This may have blocked him from seeing me for those moments.  Still, he did go to preschool after this event at least three or four classes.  Because of his anxiety the very next time, I gave up on leaving them in the van and took all three in with me which is a complete pain in the ass.

Seriously, I don't know what to do.  He has preschool again tomorrow and I do not feel like sitting through the whole class again.  I'm really behind on my bookkeeping work. With his sisters in school all day, I really think it's important for him to get some socialization with other kids especially other boys.

Do you think it's severe separation anxiety or he's really trying to control me?  Any suggestions on dealing with this?

4 comments:

  1. I just went to my weekly parenting class and we discussed ages and stages.... I am not sure how close your son is to 3.5 but around that age they can have some emotional issues, including fear and separation issues. It is possible if he is not 3.5 yet it is just manifesting itself sooner. I think you should keep trying to encourage him to do things solo and KNOW that he will grow out of it. It is a stage. And sure there may be some anxiety/control as part of that stage. I am sure it is so frustrating for you - my daughter had a preschool friend who was showing some pretty severe issues with her mom dropping her off and her mom had to stay for a while, and eventually would leave her crying daughter behind with the teachers while she left. If you do leave him at school does he eventually stop crying and engage with the group?? Sorry for the long comment - hope it gets better soon!!

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  2. Ack, that is tough! Sometimes I think it is tougher on the mommy than the child. My youngest went through a similar phase (although not as severe) and I was shocked because between my two girls, she was and is the more social one. I would have to pry her off of me, shove her in the school, and slam the door behind her. Sounds awful when I type it, but it worked. We just sort of went with the flow and she eventually got over it, no harm done. This is just a phase, and he will grow out of it. I think the hardest thing about parenting is when you realize one child has a completely different reaction to things than your other children, leaving us totally in the lurch. Hang in there!

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  3. I don't think the separation anxiety is unusual, but it is hard to cope with. I also don't think he has the capacity to orchestrate manipulation, he's just showing you his need to be reassured. A good preschool teacher will help redirect your son after you say goodbye, give a quick hug and leave. If he clings to you, she should comfort him, hold him if necessary, and then engage his interest in an activity. At this point, it's her job to be patient and nurturing while you resume your normal daily activities.

    One thing that helped my kids was to have a token that reminded them of me and my promise to return at pick up time. This can be a small picture of you, or something with your scent (a scarf, t-shirt . . . ). It works like a talisman.

    Hope this helps. Remember that this too shall pass.
    (((hugs)))
    *found you on SITS.

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  4. Separation anxiety is pretty common, especially at that age where kids are starting to branch out in the world without mom. How does he do at preschool after you leave? My boys both went through stages where they cried when I left, but two minutes later they were just fine, according to their teachers.

    Separation anxiety just takes time, I think. Time and patience!

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