Here is the second illustration of a child and caregiver, again the mother, having difficulty negotiating a transition. Again, I welcome comments from different types of child caregivers.
b. Transition to School:
Daniela is a 9-year old girl who refuses to go to school. It is now October, and she has missed 10 full days of school and come in late or left early at least another dozen times. This is very hard on her single mother, whose boss has told her she cannot miss more time from work. The last few times, her mother has left her at home, watching t.v.
Daniela lives with her mother, who emigrated from Central America 10 years ago, in a studio apartment in city housing. She has never met her biological father, also from CA, but she calls her mother’s former boyfriend “Daddy”. Her mother told him to move out last year after a particularly violent fight. Her Daddy comes to see Daniela episodically and takes her to play at his mother’s apartment, where there are other children that the grandmother takes care of. Daniela enjoys these visits but sometimes is intimidated by the other children, especially an older boy.
Daniela is a quiet girl who has attends fourth grade at a public school in her city. Spanish is the only language spoken in her home, but her mother chose to have her enter an English only school so that she would learn English, and she quickly became fluent. Her mother’s English is minimal, and outside the home, Daniela often translates for her. Daniela seemed to do well in the first three years of school. She enjoyed going to school, and her progress reports described her as a bright, friendly girl with an aptitude for language and who was at least an average student in math. She had a few girl friends and was very attached to her teachers. Her kindergarten teachers and the teachers who taught her combined first and second grade classroom had the reputation of being the best teachers in the school. One teacher in each classroom spoke Spanish and a good relationship with Daniela’s mother.
However since last year, she speaks barely a word at school. Her mother blames the school for Daniela’s school refusal, because last year there were some bullies in her class. One boy in particular picked on her, making fun of her clothes and even making vulgar sexual remarks. The boy is not in her class this year, but she sees him on the playground at recess. Her mother wanted the school to expel the boy, but she was told that they could not do that. Also, for the past two years, Daniela’s teachers have not been as sympathetic to her or to her mother as her mother considers appropriate. They have told her mother that Daniela needs to make a bigger effort to participate in school, that other girls have tried to engage her, sit next to her at lunch, but Daniela does not respond.
Daniela began to fall behind in her schoolwork last year for the first time. She would tell her mother that she had no homework or had already done her homework, but later her teacher would send home notes telling her mother that Daniela’s assignments were missing or incomplete. This would make her mother frantic, and she would scream at Daniela to show her homework, but Daniela would only shut down.