While identity crisis involves the feeling of loss without the parent near, comfort withdrawal occurs when the child feels the absence of an object or setting that provides a sense of not only security, but pleasure.
Here the trick is to try to provide substitutes that can build a psychological connection for the child with the source of security he or she is used to. Maybe taking a picture of the family dog to school would do it. Maybe a favorite toy stuffed in her backpack would help her duplicate his sense of home comfort in school. Sometimes a teacher can give a responsibility to this kind of child, such as taking care of the classroom fish tank or some other task that makes her feel connected to home.
The distress here is caused by a fear of the unknown. You can try to help by providing information to the child. Visiting the school and meeting the school staff before the school year starts is ideal. But if school has already started, playing on the school's playground after school or on weekends can speed up acclimation and reduce dread of the unknown. Familiarity is the antidote here.
This stems from not feeling like part of the group. Your child may be fine interacting with just one kid but once you begin to introduce others, distress becomes noticeable. One important intervention is to invite one classmate to your home and provide an enjoyable experience for them. Having both of them play on the schoolyard during a day off may help desensitize your child's fear of the group. Over time add a couple of friends to this benevolent group. If this fear remains intense you'll need to engage the teacher's involvement.
Many kids seem to be born worriers. A child with a constant furrowed brow, often accompanied by a dark cloud, may be a very intelligent individual who just seems to take on an adult view of the world and its many concerns. Your mission as parent is to encourage playfulness and support your child's efforts rather than results. Make sure that you are not adding extra demands on top of his or her personal drive to do well. At the same time realize that this over-conscientiousness and over-responsibility is very likely part of his genetic makeup.
Some children fall into more than one of the above groups, so you may need to try a few interventions. A child's refusal to go to school can be significant and really upsetting to parents yet still be part of a normal development hurdle. The key is to try some potential solutions with teacher help first and recognize when professional help may be needed.
Dr. Mario Alonso is a clinical psychologist and founder of the personality test website PsychDNA.com.
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