This morning was a rough one. Our 5 year old experienced school refusal behavior with an emotional meltdown that turned aggressive fast. It was very hard for us and always brings me to tears. He had emotions his 5 year old self couldn’t explain like most children his age experience when transitioning into/back to school. In the heat of it it can be very hard to have patience. We have our other two boys that need our attention and help getting ready for school, my husband has work and appointments to attend, and the school bus has a strict schedule. With all of this on our mind we had to make a conscious point to breathe, take a minute and look deeper at the situation at hand. Doing this always gives answers and we are so glad we took a moment to listen to our intuition and be patient with our tantrum throwing Kindergartener who obviously needed our support.
The first thing we took into account was that he refused dinner the night before. As parents this happens to all of us from time to time. So we knew he went to bed on an empty stomach and this can cause a rough start. Then in the middle of him screaming he mentions that he ate a lollipop before coming out of his room this morning. Apparently he hid said lollipop in his dresser. (which happens quite frequently. This kid is a candy Houdini!) Unfortunately it also causes a severe negative reaction in him. Processed sugar makes kids crazy yes, but it makes our little guy a whole different person. His reaction turns aggressive, unhinged and highly emotional. There's scratching, kicking, hair pulling and verbal aggression. So overall, he basically fasted an entire night to then fill his empty stomach with pure sugar. Our recipe for disaster. Learn more about hidden allergens and the effects on behavior, here.
His system became stressed and then his behavior followed in. We now had insight to the extreme anxiety that he was exhibiting about going to school for his third day and needed to act accordingly.
Sooo, How did we handle it? While doing our best to make sure the other boys are fed, dressed and ready, we take turns tending to the situation.
We focused on getting a protein in his stomach, told him to focus on breakfast and not to worry about school right now and to just get some healthy food in his belly.
My husband then offered to take him on a quick walk outside after he finishes breakfast and immediately he started responding better and the tears dwindled. He wanted to go for a walk. Then I asked him if he would like some oil (essential oil), and he requested to have his own roller bottle like his big brother does. I was so excited because I had just received my supplies to make him an essential oil blend I call, Brave. This recipe blend helps with occasional nervous irritability and mental focus. I reply with an excited 'Of Course" and headed up stairs to whip it up! Learn more about essential oils, here.
On his own he went to the table and ate his breakfast. I came down with his oil and my husband and I gently explain that it's called Brave. His ears perked and he held back a smile but refused and said he didn't need Brave. I looked to my husband and asked for some stating that I would like some Brave, so I applied the oil to my wrists and then asked him if he’d like to smell it. He slowly took to it, smelt it, and put some on “just to try”. He asked to hold his special oil and then he was ready for their walk outside.
Immediately after their stroll he went right into the car and said he was ready for school. Unfortunately he missed the bus, but taking this time was more important than rushing. Our littlest needed to be dropped off along the way and attends our Kinder's school from last year. When pulling into the parking lot he mentions that wants to help his little brother by taking him in. He's feeling more confident, he’s excited to say hello to his old teachers and to be a big helper. Afterwards he got back into the car and we were off! We pulled up to his school and he applied Brave one more time and asked me to hold onto it for him. He was confident and ready go and was back to his best self.
The reason I’m sharing this...
Regardless of time and the societal push to tough love your children, it’s important to trust your heart and gut as a parent. Not all kids are the same! For some a quick goodbye works and a slight nudge from us by quickly leaving their school so they can adjust with confidence and not cling to us is okay. Working in the school system and with pre-K children I remember the norm was parents should make it quick. It’s easier on everyone. But when you have a child that is exhibiting severe separation anxiety, different approaches to maintain the safety of their emotional development is crucial. Self soothing is damaging if we are not introducing positive coping tools in the process. Learn more here.
It took some extra time, we had a slightly slower start to the morning, and in the end we made it happen! It was very hard and it’s always challenging as a parent in these situations especially if we are attempting to reframe the way we handle stress and parenting from what we were taught. For me it can feel so conflicting in the process due to my muscle memory and what I feel I should be doing differently. The bottom line is our family along with many other mindfulness focused parents want to raise truly confident and emotionally intelligent children who have skills to handle difficult emotions rather than having them stuff their feelings down because they have to and have them rely on distracting themselves from their true feelings.
Conventional school in this way can feel unnatural to our biological make up. Simply ripping the attachment feels heart wrenching in this way. Finding a balance is important so our children can adapt to society while remaining emotionally healthy. The Waldorf Method for all schools would be wonderful, but right now it's just not a focus in conventional education. So trust you heart, don’t let others sway your intuition. Just as you aim to trust your heart in pregnancy and birth it's so very important to keep doing this beyond birth and babyhood. In time this will all change and the education system will better understand the importance of shaping healthy emotional development alongside academic excellence. All good things take time on a larger scale so focus on what you can do now in this moment. Keep practicing being a mindful parent and know there are many others doing the same. Let's help shape a balanced whole brain future as parents, the most important teachers in our children's lives.
With so much love and sincerity,