Q:

My 4-year-old daughter goes to pre-K, part of the public school system in our state. She did well the first week. But the second week, she started to cry and refused to do what her teachers asked her to do. The teachers called and asked us to pick her up for three days in a row. As soon as we picked her up, she was happy again.

We decided it was separation anxiety, and thought picking her up was just going to prolong the process of transitioning. She said in no uncertain terms that she wanted to stay home and not go to school. I think the school should just remove her from the classroom and let her calm down. Once she learns that acting up is not going to get her what she wants, she is going to cooperate, but if we give in every time, she will keep on doing it for days or weeks to come.

The school seems to be clueless as to how to handle this situation. We have kept our daughter home for the past few days, waiting for the teachers' solution. We do not want to send her to school only to be called shortly afterward to pick her up. The school hasn't responded. What do you think is the proper way to handle such a situation? -- Baffled

A:

The first week went fine. Talk to your daughter and try to find out why she is no longer enjoying school. Did something happen at school to change her attitude? She may be able to give you a clue about her dislike of the pre-K classroom. Your next step is to have an immediate one-on-one conference with the teacher or teachers to look for a joint solution to this situation. You may also find it helpful to visit the classroom.

We don't know if this is a case of separation anxiety or if something else is involved -- that's why you need to talk at once with the teacher or teachers. Here are some suggestions that may help resolve separation anxiety:

  • -Do not give in to your child.
  • -Let her know that she has handled similar situations well.
  • -Arrange playdates with others in the class to help her feel more comfortable at school.
  • -Find out if she can bring a beloved cuddly toy with her.
  • -Consider staying in the classroom for a brief time, if possible.

If this situation persists, it would be wise to get help from a school counselor or psychologist.