The transition cloud

Sep 18 2013 Published by under [Et Al], [Life Trajectories]

Kindergarten. Who knew what giant hot mess it would make everything?

Change is often tough on kids and affects some more than others. Even the anticipation of change can set off some pretty difficult behaviors. This is what we have been facing for about 3 months now, since we made the decision to transition our older daughter out of the preschool/kindergarten program she was in, to a K-5 school not far from campus. It was a good decision - the right one - but we've been paying for it ever since like a gambling addict pays their loan shark. Suffice to say, it's been a painful transition.

I don't know if it's the age, the school switch or some magical pu-pu platter of child angst, but it's a challenge just to keep the daily tantrum total in the single digits. And bed time? Holy fuck, bed time. I would worry that our neighbors think we run some sort of insane asylum/slaughter house combo if they didn't have kids in roughly the same age bracket.

It's exhausting. To keep your composure while your child yells at you, hitting and screaming. To not give in to the urge to just lock the kid in their room and go drive for an hour. To not question whether you're a terrible parent raising a future rage-junkie. And the worst part of it all is that it is causing me to dread spending time with her - and that kills me to admit. I never imagined having to force myself to spend time with my own 5yo.

And yes, we've tried what you're going to suggest. One-on-one time, sports, time outs, hugs, etc., etc. My guess is that time is the only thing that is going to work. I'm sure there will be a time when we look back with perspective and think this was no big deal, but right now it's the black cloud that hangs over ever breakfast, every dinner prep, every bath time and every bed time. While tolerable for a while, eventually it's like living in 1980s Elizabeth, NJ.

17 responses so far

  • Joshua King says:

    Been there 3 times. The only remedy is time, sorry to say.

  • katiesci says:

    I have also been there. It really sucks. Time really does seem to be the major factor, whether that means we just get used to that way of life or they actually improve substantially... I'd say in my situation it's been both. My kid has come a LONG way from the tantrums, schoolyard fist fights, and running out of the classroom (and the school!) of his elementary and middle school years. That started in kindergarten but was off and on until about 8th grade. Some days/ weeks/ months are better than others. It'll get better.

  • David Hughes says:

    It is completely normal not to want to spend time with a 5-year old. Very difficult stage. We are getting out of that now (my son is 7 but my daughter is entering...but she is great generally. He has been hard).

    Time outs., time outs, time outs. Not as a punishment but more for diffusion. It gives her time to calm down and you to compose. And kids hate being removed from the family.

    Allow her control of somethings. What to pick for school. What will she bring for show and tell.

    It is normal. Really. You are not doing anything that is bad or will scar her for life.

  • Nat says:

    We're going through our own transition now. My 7.5 year old son has been very difficult lately, not listening (more than usual), calling my wife a "jerk" and throwing cereal at us. I didn't really connect it to the new school year (cause it's the same school, with many of the same kids), but yesterday on the drive home he told me that no one would sit with him at lunch. He said he even asked everyone, but they all said no. That hit me right in the gut. Time to leaven the firmness with some extra time and love.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    One wonders how our species survives ourselves.

  • What others have said. Hang in there. Clearly, you're doing it right - or one of a variety of ways of doing it right.

  • I'm sorry you guys are going through this. With the chance of sounding like a hippie (which I probably already do anyway), I like to read this from time to time:

  • Alyssa says:

    Ugh...transitions can be so horrible. Hang in there, and don't feel bad at all for not enjoying spending time with your kid. We've all been there.

  • MediumPriority4Life says:

    Hang in there, changing kid behavior takes time and consistency. Its is like turning an aircraft carrier. You know want direction you want to go in, but the path of change is long and slowly traversed.1

    1. I have never been on an aircraft carrier that is changing direction, but I imagine this is a slow process that covers a great distance. This was the best analogy I could come up with. Sorry.

  • SM says:

    Oh man, that was my last year. My kid was such an asshole--this year is 10x better.

    Just hang in there and try to keep it all in perspective..

  • mpledger says:

    Three months is a long time in kid time. I think you should investigate it further. Can you go to school and sit in on a few sessions and see how it is for the kids - from what I can gather school is a lot more regimented and the kids have to be "on task" more than in our day even in K. Tantrums may be the only way she can have any control in her life and home may be the only place she feels safe enough to express her feeling about that.

    Is she being rushed all the way through the day so that when things finally slow down she lets loose all the emotions she hasn't had time to vent all day? Is she given a warning when she is about to transition to something else? e.g. "In five minutes I am going to go and run your bath - can you finish up with what you are playing with and when I come back I'll help you tidy up".

    But to be on the safe side it might be worth getting her health checked/hearing/eyesight /food allergies?

    Is there any emotional stuff going on? Has she suddenly got afraid of the dark, been exposed to ideas around burglary, bad people coming into the home? e.g. Did she just see Monsters University? Has she been involved in a trial evacuation for a school shooting-type incident? If she is quite bright than people might have talked to her about stuff that she can cope with intellectually but not emotionally.

    I have had the same experience as Nat - my kid was driving me crazy and I was finding it hard to deal with it but then I found out some other stuff was going on and my anger was replaced by sympathy and I realised the behaviour was not oppositional but a stress reaction.

    It might be worth talking to her about her behaviour. At a time when you and she are absolutely calm and relaxed tell her that her tantrums are upsetting you and her mother and they must be upsetting for her too. Ask her if there is something that could be done to help her not to get so upset and uptight. Maybe you could *jointly* keep a diary and see if there is any pattern to her tantrums - what things were fun for her today, what things went well, what things made her upset (what could be done to have stopped that happening/was it the right response), what things made you angry (ditto) etc. She might have got set in to a pattern of behaviour that she can't see any way out of (and for you to have the same patterned response) and doing something about it together in a calm and positive way may help her see a way out. She's old enough to realise that she has to start being responsible for her own behaviour. ("Managing Self" is a curriculum strand in our school system so I assume it's the same in the USA)

    Kids are highly variable and these are my reactions based on raising n=1 kid so there might not be anything in what I have said that rings true but hopefully there might be something useful.

  • proflikesubstance says:


    3 months represents the time between us all making the decision to switch schools, through starting and the last three weeks of the new environment. There's a lot going on, including leaving a core group of friends, starting new in a more structured setting that does not include a mid-day rest period. She still takes a nap on weekends and that helps her stay on a more even keel, so the mid-week lack of sleep is adding to the evening issues. She also has a classmate who she knew previously, who is instigating a lot of issues at lunch and recess.

    All in all, there's been a lot of transition. I understand where this is all coming from, but it doesn't make it easier to deal with on a daily basis.

  • Day By Day says:

    Our autistic son just transitioned to kindergarten this year, so I can empathize with the stress, especially the anticipation of him starting school. Labor Day weekend sucked because my wife and I were wound so tight due to stress that it moved right down to our sons. They were pissy, we were pissy. It was ugly until we figured a way to drop a bit of the discipline and just try to push through the weekend.

    Ironically, our son has transitioned well, which for an autistic child can be a huge issue. His 4 year old brother, on the other hand, is not handling not being in the same school as his brother and is way oversensitive about everything. And crabby, which sets my older son off. Weekends with the two of them suck right now because I'm more of a referee than dad, and on more than one occasion fantasized about going out for 'a pack of smokes' and never coming back. I'm fairly certain my wife would hunt me down and kill me, though...

    Best of luck to us all...

  • Heavy says:

    I'm in the same boat with my 5 yo and we didn't change schools. Tough age, at least that's what I hope it is.

  • MLK says:

    Have you thought about taking turns with your partner and giving each other at least one night off per week? Getting a small break from the drama helps with the endurance needed to get through this phase. That, and extended family.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    We switch duties with the kids every night, so that nothing ever becomes one parent's "thing". Makes it easier when one of us travels.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    Sorry you guys are going through this, PLS.

    Remember when she was a couple of months old and sleep was, like, nonexistent, and this period in life felt like it was lasting FOREVER?? Hopefully, this stage turns out exactly the same way.

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