The Connection Between School and his Past

The Captain's having a bit of a hard time at school, but it's nothing we didn't expect.

Dreena Melea Tischler April 30, 2014
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The Captain, age 4, attends public school for two hours a day for a speech therapy/early childhood program. This is his second year in the program. The first six months of last year, he was a darling, predictably. We knew he wasn’t that perfect. Eventually, he began to have tantrums and show other behaviors at school.

When the Captain came to our home, it was his sixth move. He was not yet three years old. Clinging, crying, and oppositional behavior are all signs of attachment issues (Personally, I think they are also signs of being human. The difference is all about degree.) Obviously, the more often a child is moved, the more likely he is to suffer from attachment issues. I think we are darn lucky this little one doesn’t have Reactive Attachment Disorder or worse.

But I do see how his past is playing into the present at school. He attaches too quickly– and too much– to both people and objects. Last year, when his teacher had a baby in April, he fell apart. It took a full six weeks to get him through a school day without a major breakdown. Did I mention that, in his birth family, he has three younger siblings? Each birth has come with its own set of trauma.

Just about the time he settled in at school, his best friend left school early for a family vacation. More trauma. More fits at school. I was so grateful for the school year to finally end so we could help him have an emotional reset.

So now we are back to school. So far this year he has had two tougher days; the first day, I’m certain, was simply testing. Some boys were “spitting,” and he joined the fun but did not want to stop when the teacher put the kibosh on it. Yesterday, I expected the call. I had to wake him from deep sleep to get him ready for school, and that is never a good start to a day for the boy who teeters on the brink of security.

Sometimes the things that send him over the edge make sense to us (teacher’s baby) but most often they don’t. What has worked the best for us is to provide an appropriate consequence for the behavior but, once that is over, lavish love on him. He plays the role of the Captain a lot, but in the end, he’s just a heartbroken little boy. And if you’ve ever lost someone you love, you know– heartbreaks are slow healing.

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Dreena Melea Tischler


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