How To Combat Cafeteria Phobia
By Mouthy Housewives on September 19, 2012
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My son started kindergarten two weeks ago. He did great until he realized he had to eat lunch at school. For reasons he can't seem to articulate, the boy is terrified of lunch period. I pack his lunch, send him with photos of the family, and even write notes and pictures each day, but nothing seems to help. His teacher even offered to eat with him once a week, but we still start every day with tears and breakdowns.
I have gone to eat with him, but I don't think that's a smart long-term solution since I'm not helping him face the problem. But what should I do? How can I help my son's fear of lunchlady land?
Hysterical Mom and Hysterical Son
Dear Hysterical Mom and Hysterical Son,
Remember the last time you were at a cocktail party and you didn't really know anyone except the hosts? And then your husband excused himself to go to the bathroom and you started to have heart palpitations to the point where you vowed to never leave your living room again because it's a lot less stressful to watch reality TV every night than deal with this social crap?
That's how your son feels. Except he's only five. Kindergarten is enormously overwhelming for many kids but at least the classroom provides a lot of structure and organized activities. The lunchroom is whole different ball of insanity. It's loud. It's crowded. It has big kids. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.
Your son is still adjusting to kindergarten and the lunch room is putting him over the edge. I think it's perfectly fine for you to meet him for lunch for a week or so if the school allows it. Make sure he knows it's temporary. But it might just be the security he needs while he gets comfortable in the school.
Or perhaps the school could assign your son an older buddy that has lunch at the same time as he does? This older student could sit down with your son at lunch everyday so that he feels less alone in the lunchroom. I would also recommend visiting the lunchroom with your son after school hours. Let him run around, be goofy and see that it's just a big room with a lot of bleach-scrubbed tables.
Also, is there a social worker in the school? If yes, it might be helpful to talk to him or her about what has worked with other kids. Personally, I have a kindergartener who loathes going to school because she hates gym class. Apparently the idea of running puts her into an emotional tailspin. So know that your son is perfectly normal!
Hang in there. This is just a stage and soon you'll move on to bigger problems! See, doesn't that make you feel better?!
Photo Credit: mainedoe.
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