By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My kindergartner says she hates school. She tells me that she is bored and that the other kids are making fun of her. My child is very smart and gets her work done early and has nothing to do when she is finished. What can I do?
While your daughter’s negative attitude is cause for concern, you can easily turn it around if you can figure out what is going on. First, talk with your daughter about being bored. What does she actually mean? Find out what kind of schoolwork she is completing quickly and what she does while waiting for the others to finish. Suggest that she look at a book or color a picture during those times.
Second, ask your daughter about the teasing. Is she being bullied, or is she referring to an isolated incident? Find out what happened and how your child responded. If she is being bullied, the school officials need to know. But if it was simply a misunderstanding, then use this opportunity to teach your child conflict-resolution skills.
Third, if you have not already done so, ask for a conference with the teacher so you can share your concerns and get details about your daughter’s behavior in the classroom. Be sure to ask about less structured times as well, such as recess or lunchtime. Her teacher may have no idea that other children are making fun of her — sometimes just giving the teacher a heads-up about bullying is enough to make it stop. Or the teacher may have an entirely different perspective on the situation.
Ask the teacher about your child’s claim that she completes her work ahead of her classmates and feels bored. Does this happen all the time or just once in a while? Is it possible that she is gifted? Most kindergarten classrooms are made up of students with a broad range of skills — some have had years of daycare or preschool and are further along with their ABCs, whereas others have never been in a structured learning environment and are starting from scratch.
Fourth, look for ways to help your daughter develop a positive attitude toward school. Enroll her in a school-affiliated activity such as a sport or Girl Scouts — this can instill a sense of pride and loyalty. Be sure to take her to school festivals, carnivals, or picnics so that she can interact with her classmates in a nonacademic setting.
Finally, it never hurts to consult with your child’s pediatrician. Sometimes irritability and a lack of interest in normal activities can indicate a physiological illness or even depression. Schedule a physical examination to rule out these possibilities.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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