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Ask Dr. Marla: My almost 3-year-old daughter doesn’t want to go to school


My daughter is almost three and has been in nursery school for over a year. Her teacher just called me to say she’s noticed that she’s been clingy with her for the last week or two. She’s wanted to bring her blankie to school and even asked to not go to school. Is it normal for her to have periods of regression? 


Your question made me think of Charlie Brown’s friend Linus and his blanket! 
Her security blanket is called a transitional object and as the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, it is part of the emotional support system that every child needs in the early years. 
They are called transitional objects because they help the child to make the transition from dependence to independence. In part they work because they are familiar and in part they work because of scent. The scent reminds the child of the comfort and security of home. Having a transitional object is not a sign of weakness and can be very helpful. 
It is natural for young children to feel anxious when you say good-bye and it’s a normal stage of development, however your question leads me to believe that your child was doing well and suddenly developed the anxiety. 
Take a close look at anything that might have thrown your child off balance. If you can pinpoint what has changed, then it can be addressed. Common causes of anxiety can include: 
  • a change in the class 
  • a stressful situation at home, such as the loss of a pet 
  • a classmate who is teasing or bullying 
It is important to consider any kind of traumatic experience that could have triggered this newfound behaviour. Speak with your children, listen to them and respect their feelings. 
If your child is withdrawing from friends and family or is fearful or refuses to go to school, then seek professional help.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, April 2012

a man carrying two children

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