Identifying anxiety and overcoming bad behaviour – at age five

first-day-of-school cropAfter battling bad behaviour at pre-school, Veronica was not looking forward to Isaac turning five.

Every time Isaac was dropped off at preschool, Isaac would become frightened, then angry. He’d push over a chair, stamp his feet and become difficult.

“He had been enrolled at preschool for two years, and everything we’d tried made no difference.”

The first attempt at introducing Isaac to school was not a success, so Veronica pulled Isaac out and went looking for help.

“The whole family was under pressure and I felt that everything we were doing ended up reinforcing the bad behaviour.”

A friend referred Veronica to Jenny Bell Oranga’s Fun FRIENDS programme, and Isaac was enrolled at the beginning of Term 1, 2015.

“We met with Jenny Bell and two or three other families. Suddenly we realised other families were going through the same thing.

“Fun FRIENDS was very hands-on and gave us lots of skills to take away. Now Isaac has a toolbox of practical strategies to manage anxiety and emotions.” The Fun FRIENDS group met weekly through Term 1, and Isaac started school again in the middle of Term 2. Jenny helped with the transition. Isaac’s teacher came on board and some tools were introduced into the classroom.

By Term 3, a huge weight had lifted off the family.

“Isaac wants to go to school now, and that’s an enormous change. There are still issues to be dealt with, and we still need to reinforce the skills he’s learned, but we don’t have as many meltdowns when he is forced to deal with change.

“At home, we don’t have any issues with behaviour at all now. If he needs space, he just takes himself to his room and sorts himself out. If he needs help, he is more confident to ask for it. So that is happening at home and it’s beginning to happen at school.

“Fun FRIENDS showed us the root problem. Now we know it is anxiety and not just a tantrum. We now understand the triggers for the behaviours.” Isaac’s challenges are complicated by his identification as gifted and talented.

Veronica looked around and couldn’t find any other evidence-based program that offered what Fun FRIENDS did.

“Often the first port of call is the mental health service or a psychologist, and children’s behaviours are categorised as abnormal. But Jenny’s program meant we didn’t need to go there.”

Fun FRIENDS has proven useful for all the family. “It wasn’t just teaching Isaac. It was teaching us too. Now we all have more tools, more understanding and more compassion.”