Looking for advice with my 5 year old DS.

 Just wondering if other people have experienced this kind of behavior at this age.

He JUST turned 5 about two weeks ago.   He is a pretty even-tempered kid in general (although definitely a kid who likes a schedule) but recently he has been having big emotional outbursts.  An example;  we are planning on getting solar panels on our roof and when the sales person came to present the first information there was a BIG,  BIG meltdown from DS all about how he didn’t want solar panels .  (DH had the genius idea of telling DS that Luke Skywalker’s house was powered with solar panels and then they watched a video about it so now he is all excited about it.)  We’ve had outbursts over swimming lessons, and things as irrational as my NOT going in the cellar w/ him, his sister and DH.  

But the worst of it is at pre-school drop off.  He has gone full day to this place 3 days a week for almost two years and it is a great place and he loves it.  But since his birthday every day the drop off has been difficult w/ him on the edge of tears ( or in tears)  and clinging to me and refusing to go start his day.  

I checked w/ the teachers and he is fine once I leave and they say that they are not aware of any changes (but are watching to see how things go).  I really don’t think that it is the school since when DH picks him up he is fine and has had a great day. 

So I have been doing remediation to try to have him not be so upset, asking him what are his ideas about how to help the situation (so far we’ve come up with writing a note for him about how we love him, letting him put a toy/book in his backpack , sharing  two big hugs and kisses, going over the day’s schedule to remind him of how things go ) but so far  it  has not improved. Now two weeks isn’t very long but I will be honest and say this behavior is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  I have been trying really hard to remain calm however and have mostly been successful.  He is capable of calming himself down when we count to ten (or 20) and he is very verbal so can express how he feels but you know he isn’t a reliable witness  ;-) so I am not really sure what might be the root of the problem.  I do try hard not to make a bigger deal of it than it is but maybe I AM making a bigger deal anyway.  Oh and he really only does it with me not with DH so it is something with me.

I have thought about WHY he is doing this now and I have two thoughts;

1)      He is aware that big changes are coming.  He will be leaving his safe school and going to kindergarten.  Also that at school they are asking him to do harder things like writing letters or sounding out words (and let me add that they aren’t pressuring him, just that he is capable of doing the work so they present it to him and that he refuses and says he’s scared or it’s too hard.)

2)      DD is 20 months and is an active little girl who is all over him and his stuff and she requires a lot attention from us right now to prevent injury to her or our possessions  :-) Maybe his clinging to me is a reaction to his feeling that I don’t give him enough attention.  I feel like he gets plenty of attention but maybe I need to carve out 5 minutes of just him and me time besides bedtime story time.

Anyway, just looking for people’s thoughts, experiences , ideas, reassurance whatever you got.

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14 thoughts on “Looking for advice with my 5 year old DS.

  1. So – oddly – WP is not showing who wrote this comment.

    Anyway – I do think “big change is coming” is huge. My DD was so sensitive to change that the prospect of going to Kindergarten (or whatever the next grade was) stressed her out for years. She heard “you’re going to be big Kindergarteners” as a threat (as in “better straighten up now, or learn letters or whatever – or else it will be bad in Kindy”). I’m sure it wasn’t said like that (usually) but she heard it that way. Your DS might feel like he’s not ready to be a big kid – maybe the “babyish” behavior is a way of both clinging to you in general (with a buttinksy little sister trying to get in on his turf) and to his comfortable school. You can reassure him by labeling it – change is hard, you’re getting older and things might sometimes seem hard, new school could be exciting but also a little bit scary. We moved between K and 1, and the build up to that was so hard for DD – she became a totally different kid – one day I said “hey – I”m sorta nervous about this move” and she STOPPED running around the house, sat next to me, and said “me too” and we cried a bit. We had tried so hard to make the move a totally positive one for her, I’d forgotten to give her permission to be mad/sad/scared about it.

    Also – 5 is old enough to begin teaching the “right” way to express your feelings etc. Tell him what you expect and how you want him to handle tough situations. 5 year olds have self-control, executive functioning, better time sense…..take advantage of that and give him tools to understand what he’s feeling…. not like an adult of course, but the baby steps!

    • thanks again for the advice and just wondering if you have any books or info that you recommend that would help me figure out how to “give him the tools” ? I tend to talk alot so I want to figure out how not to talk over him but to him.

  2. I definitely think it could be the impending school change that has him stressed out. Lucy’s now 5.75 and nearing the end of her kindergarten year and things have definitely evened out, but we saw a huge uptick in tantrums the last couple months before kindergarten started. She also had the baby on the way to worry about, so it’s hard to tell exactly what was the bigger source of anxiety for her. Things have really gotten a lot better. We started some counseling that may be helping, but I’m not convinced it’s all that. It could just be time and reassurance and becoming adjusted to our new life.

    You could wait it out a bit and see how you can help him feel more secure and try giving him some ways of calming himself down when he’s upset. But don’t rule out talking to his pediatrician and looking into some counseling if things don’t even out soon. In our case, I think it has been important for Lucy to see that we’re working on helping her feel better and deal with her emotions. I think those outbursts can be pretty bewildering and upsetting, so just knowing that we’re helping her seems to be helping her some.

  3. Also wanted to say hugs and good luck. I know it’s stressful to mother an emotional kid! At least in my case, I had some empathy for her, but also quite a large share of anger.

    One little insight the counselor gave us is that what worked before to help her control her emotions isn’t working now because the old tricks we used when she was younger and having tantrums were more parent-directed. Part of the issue for older kids is that they need to take over managing their own emotions, and sometimes that’s not a seemless process.

      • They gave us specific discipline things to try and want us to praise copiously when things are going well (like 60-100 times a day, they said. We’re lucky if we hit 25, but that’s probably about 20 more than we had been doing). We’re supposed to add daily child directed playtime and/or roughhousing. And then the therapist took Lucy by herself and they used a picture of the body to talk about what it feels like when she feels angry or sad. She also taught her several breathing techniques (like yoga breathing) and to tense up and then relax things. When we can see she’s getting upset, we remind her to breathe. If she doesn’t, that’s her choice, but she has to go to her room then.

  4. There are some great children’s books that deal with transitions. Here’s one that takes the point of view that the 5 year old boy is NOT afraid of kindergarten — but his dog is :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Kindergarten-Rocks-Katie-Davis/dp/0152064680/ref=pd_sim_b_2

    I think sidling up to the topic of change and fear can be a good way to let a child know it’s okay to be afraid — or not. Using puppets to act out someone else’s fears is also useful and reassuring if the child is not ready to own being frightened.

    As far as how to talk about things, I think the main thing is to convey that all kinds of feelings are okay — excitement, fear, anger, boredom, etc. It sounds like you have a boy who is confident and able at expressing what he knows he is feeling. Sometimes putting out there some other feelings he might be having but not have a name for can be calming.

    From the sounds of it his behavior is not out-of-bounds, if he can self-regulate by the count of 10. If he likes the security of a schedule, and becomes upset by changes like the solar panels, he may need some more limits on his sister’s behavior in order to feel secure. This is a negotiation within the family so everyone gets their needs met. Are there places he can be that she can’t, or places his belongings can be that she can’t reach? Or is he always getting the message, “She can’t help it, she’s too little to understand”? I think a combination of him accommodating her and her accommodating him (through parental controls) would help him see that he is not at the mercy of her behavior, but that he also has to give a little as a family member. Flexibility is a good thing.

    • Thanks. He was a little better this morning at drop off..sad but not crying. I will look at that book.

      w/ his little sister we try very hard not to excuse her because she is too little. Her behavior actually gets corrected more than his actually. I do talk about what kids are like at her age and that we have to teach her how to share etc and he can help us. He can play in his room and shut the door so she can’t get in there . But I will look more at making sure he is feeling secure.

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