My Daughter Hates School on Art Days

I have a 5-year-old little girl who is very shy. She started kindergarten this year, which went better than I had expected. My problem is that after all of the normal anxiety was over, we have continued to have problems on the days that she has art. I have had to physically take her to school, kicking and screaming. She tells me that it is too hard. I have talked to the art teacher and told her what was happening on these days. She says that there have been no problems with her in the class.

I have asked my daughter why she hates art and she says that it is too hard. I told her that if she can't do something that she has to ask the teacher for help, that the teacher is there to help her and that they don't expect her to know how to do everything. If you have any suggestions I would really appreciate them.

Question:

Your daughter's anxiety over art instruction does seem to be a cause for concern. I don't know that we can resolve anything together, but I can certainly offer some suggestions.

You mention that your daughter is only upset about going to school on the days when she has art instruction. Is there anything else going on at school on the same day that is different from the normal routine? Is there another class that joins your daughter's class for instruction? While you have narrowed down the reason for your daughter's anxiety to art class, there may be something else going on that is upsetting her that she may not be communicating to you. In order to further understand what is going on at school on this day, you may want to spend a day (or part of a day) visiting and observing the classroom routines. This may give you more insight as to the specific reasons for your daughter's trauma.

I am curious about the observations of the classroom teacher. Has she noticed anything different about your daughter's behavior during this art instruction period? If she is not in the classroom during the art class, perhaps she could spend some time watching your daughter and the interaction that she has with the art teacher and the other children in the class. Perhaps the art teacher's interaction with children of this tender age is very different from that of the regular classroom teacher, which is causing this reaction in your daughter. Maybe your daughter is reacting to the other children in the class. If she perceives that they are following the instruction easily and she is not, this could be the source of her anxiety, even if her perceptions are not in fact reality. Kids can become frustrated easily. They are also self- conscious and very aware of what the other kids around them are doing. The only way to know what is at the root of this anxiety, though, is to observe your daughter in this during this period of instruction.

Because your daughter is reacting so strongly to art class, I would also consider setting up a meeting between you, the art teacher, and the classroom teacher. The three of you working together will give your more information to work with to resolve this problem. Consider some of the above suggestions in your discussion with the teachers. Changing her seating assignment, having the teacher repeat the instructions individually to her, assigning her a partner to work with, or offering her an alternate assignment are just some possibilities that you can work with to help your daughter to overcome her fears.

At home, continue to reinforce with her the fact that "nobody's perfect." Quality children's literature such as Frosted Glass, Bunny Trouble, and Tacky the Penguin illustrate the concept that everyone is different, with different strengths and interests, and that these differences are a big part of what makes us special. She may be able to relate to the main characters in these stories and learn to accept that her work can be different from that of her classmates and that's okay.

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