Follow your instincts
As I’ve recently documented, we’ve gone through a difficult milestone with our son at daycare. Quick recap is an unscheduled fire drill took place at his daycare and the startle factor of it traumatized him. So much so that for almost 2 weeks he wouldn’t leave the safety he felt at the front corner of the room at daycare, not even to eat or sleep. So for all that time he was spending his days watching all of the fun happen around him at daycare but was too anxious to participate in any of it. As the first few days past I began we feel worried. Then more worried. Then I began asking questions to see what efforts were being made to help him get through it. I had a hard time at first because he didn’t feel any of those anxious feelings at home, so it wasn’t something I was able to make any headway with while he was with us.
I began asking questions of those that care for him at his daycare and quickly realized that they had no idea how to help him. I’m not trying to come down on them or be judgey...it’s really simply a classic case of ‘momma knows best’. I knew with 100% certainty what was wrong, despite them being unsure if the fire drill actually was the culprit. I’m no child psychologist so all I could do was trust my instincts and follow my gut on how to help him. So this is what I did:
- Stayed with him at daycare for well over an hour each morning on the second week that this was going on. I played with his friends, I played with the toys in the room and I had meetings with everyone who had contact with him at his daycare to make sure everyone was on the same page about the situation.
- I made it clear (very diplomatically) that more effort needed to be put forth by everyone to support his feelings and help him to overcome his fear. Simply saying: We keep asking him to come and play but he doesn’t want to, is not a good enough explanation anymore because clearly he’s not going to be able to overcome this on his own
- I began to turn the ‘Fire’ receptacle, on the wall…(you know the thingy...it’s red, says FIRE on it and flashes lights when the alarm goes off)...into this funny game where I’d run up to it, jump and tap in it and say hello each day. He would laugh and giggle and I’d tell him that he’s safe and no sound is going to come out of it
- I googled like crazy about how to help a child with separation anxiety and felt comforted by all the parents going through the same thing. I learned a phrase known to help kids who get upset when mommy leaves them at daycare for work: ‘Mommy goes to work BUT, mommy always come back, right?’ That has really helped so much. Now he fills in the last words….’COMES BACK!’ It’s become a ritual and it really seems to help him to stay calm.
I’m thrilled to say that in the last few weeks we’ve made amazing progress. We’ve gotten through it..mostly! He’s sitting at the table and eating with his friends, he’s napping, he’s back to running around the room and playing like any 3 year old deserves to do. I’m also thrilled to say that his daycare really stepped up to help. They took seriously my concerns and all seemed motivated to help him. They even asked the fire department to come to the center with the truck so the kids would have a chance to make a fun, positive association with the fire alarm and I think that helped as well.
Basically I learned that, and it seems so stupidly obvious, but we really have to just be the momma bear sometimes and do whatever our gut is telling us to do to help our kids through these tricky milestones. I feel confident in saying that had I not laid down the law and demanded that everyone lean into this problem he might still be spending his days sitting in that corner feeling anxious all day…..and that’s no way to live (unless you’re a Mom!!)