Tuesday, 7 August 2012

It's NOT normal for kids to cry at Kindy

The biggest challenge of raising a high-need kid like Condor 1 is knowing when to filter out well-meaning but damaging advice from others.

The pressure to treat him the way other kids are treated is immense, and I find myself doubting my instincts on a weekly basis. Usually when I'm exhausted, sick, there's a regression, or when people just don't understand the special care that's needed to raise a happy C1.

The most recent damaging advice received was that it's "ok to dump him in kindergarten and let him cry". That's how it's done with all the other kids.

Why the fuck did I listen? I knew he did not have the temperament for Ferberization, and kindergarten was NO exception.

When people give you seemingly simple advice on how to handle your high-need child, be sure to ask for a lot more details. Taking the kindy example :

If it's ok for him to cry, how LONG is it ok for him to cry? 

I belatedly realised that most kids will cry for a few minutes when the parents leave, but they are easily distracted by the teachers and they STOP.

When C1 had his kindy trauma, he was crying ALL FUCKING MORNING. From 8.30am till 12.00pm! It would stop for brief periods, then start again. That is NOT normal, and that is NOT ok. That's a sign that something's wrong, and you need to follow your instincts and not what some idiot told you.

Did you notice any change in his behaviour after starting kindy?

Lots of parents gloss over this VERY important point. They forget or they never notice the change in their kids after they're dumped unceremoniously in kindy.

Some kids learn to cope and adapt without much fuss. Some kids turn into total assholes, doing things they never did before as a way of acting out or expressing their feelings of abandonment. e.g. hitting, biting, wetting themselves even though they're potty trained.

I noticed the change in C1 immediately after his 1st day in the Trauma Kindy. He was withdrawn, didn't make much eye-contact, and had trouble controlling his bladder. I knew this meant trouble but I stuck it out for another 3 days, during which his behaviour got worse (wouldn't let me out of his sight, even in the house) and even his sleep was affected.

In this new kindy (Nakorn Sari), I'm happy to say that I've left him on his own twice now. I've been staying with him throughout class for a month (exhausted till I fell sick) and felt that it was time to start leaving him on his own. Especially since he seemed comfortable letting me out of his sight for long periods of time as he was absorbed in their activities.

The first time, he did cry, with big rolling tears. But I had prepared him for this moment, and assured him that I would be back at 12pm to pick him up. And I would never leave him without saying bye first (my rookie mistake at Trauma Kindy). He's used to this cue because he's learned to wait for Papa to come home from work at 7pm, so I decided it was the best way to go for him.

The teachers told me he cried till his body shook at first, but for the most part he was ok because they kept distracting him with things to do. Glad I chose the holiday programme to do this, as he loves the arts and crafts.

I was more interested in his behaviour when I came to pick him up.

I showed that I was happy to see him, but not "OMGMYPOORBABYCOMEISAVEYOUNOW!". That was good advice from the kindy owner Nancy Simon - she said when he comes to you, you must be assuring but non-challant, like "Hey, there. Wassup baby?". This allows him to pick up cues from you that this is not a scary place, because mommy is not scared for me or worried for me.

So, I'm glad to say that he was happy to see me, but he wasn't desperate to run away from the teachers or about to burst into tears. He also said the teachers were very nice to him, but I'm not sure if he was just echoing what I said. He did say he liked them. He didn't like the teacher in Trauma Kindy.

For the rest of the day, he also was very cheerful and talkative, and MORE independent than usual (feeding himself, getting out of the car etc....). He was very loving and affectionate, but NOT clingy.

That was a great sign.

Today is the second time he's been left there. LOTS of tears and wailing, and I could barely bring myself to leave. But I had to be strong, because I'd started already and I had to be consistent if I wanted him to learn to be independent in kindy, and trust his teachers to see to his needs.

I hid with Condor 2 till I saw he was distracted by the cars outside, and he stopped wailing. Then, with a heavy heart, I left.

When I came back, the poor fella had just finished 2 bowls of fried rice, and was shuffling his feet slowly and despondently on the floor mats. Again he was happy to see me and hugged me, but didn't look like he was holding in a flood of tears.

I pointed out that I was here at 12pm, as promised. He looked at the clock on the wall and declared with a smile, "The hand point at 12 o'clock!" You could see the thoughts in his head : mommy is here, she didn't leave me, I'm not so scared anymore, she won't leave me.

They had a birthday party and he was so excited he kept trying to blow out the boy's candles. He was the only kid who couldn't sit still, and kept getting scolded by the other kids when he couldn't contain himself and ran to the cake. When the cake was finally cut, he was jumping around for a piece and took his bowl to the birthday table and sat there without preamble.

He had trouble feeding the cake to himself and started asking for help. All the teachers were busy so he finally found a way to cut the piece and feed himself without dropping any. He kept asking for more. Had 2 helpings! Hahaha.

He was very happy to leave, and screamed an enthusiastic "BYEBYEEEE TEACHERRRR!" to any adult he saw. That's good because at the previous kindy, he just mumbled it robotically, the way an abused wife would kiss the cheek of a husband who had just slapped her.

Again, very affectionate at home, but not tearful or clingy. He was happy to see me, and I told him I was happy to see him. He listened to me, he was responsive, he told me he wanted to poo poo without releasing any in his pants, he was playful ....

THIS is what it's supposed to feel like when they slowly learn to be independent. I do hope it continues to go well!

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