Dear Dr. Bill,
Our family recently moved and now my six year old daughter is terrified of riding on a school bus! The school is too far away for her to walk, and my wife and I both work—so driving her back and forth every day really isn’t feasible. What can we do?
Your e-mail doesn’t provide much information on what might be causing your daughter’s fear of the school bus. Did some kind traumatic incident occur on the bus? Are there children on the bus who are bullying her? Does the bus driver yell at the kids and threaten them?
Her fear could be based on any one of these things, but it’s likely it may have more to do with adjusting to the new school and being separated from mom and dad.
To determine if something occurred on the bus that scared her, you’ll need to have a conversation with the bus driver and perhaps with his supervisor. If something did happen, you’ll need to discuss the experience with her and enlist the driver’s help to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
On the other hand, if she’s never actually ridden the bus to her new school and is afraid to get on it, the issue is most likely a fear of being separated from you and your wife. In that case, you’ll need to bite the bullet and lovingly but firmly insist that she get the bus and take it to school.
Here’s one way you might make her first ride less traumatic. Ask the bus driver if you could meet him later in the day after the afternoon run. Allow your daughter to meet the driver and tour the bus with you.
Make it a fun experience, exploring the different seats and perhaps asking the driver if she can honk the horn. This will give her a sense of mastery and control over the situation, and should make getting on the bus the next morning much easier for her.
Thanks for writing, Greg.
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