Not wanting to go to preschool

I just started my 3yo boy in a 3-day preschool program, hoping to ease him into the flow of going to school in prep for a full time schedule later in 2019. He’s very social and loves interaction, so I thought he’d thrive. So far though, every morning he says over and over that he doesn’t want to go. Once I drop him off he’s been totally fine, except this morning where he was very clingy and wasn’t okay until he saw some Duplos he wanted to play with. When his mom picks him up, she says he’s very eager to leave — his lip starts quivering like he’s overwhelmed and one time last week she had to go back in to get something and he was upset because he thought he was having to go back. Is this normal? He’s never been in any daycare programs before, but has typically done very well with being left with babysitters or church childcare. Is this something to push through? Or should I be concerned/looking for a different preschool? I have to get him used to going because his mom and I are divorcing and she’ll be moving away next year, so he’ll be going full time within a few months. What can I do to help him adjust or figure out if something else is going on that’s making him not want to be there? What questions would be good to ask his teachers?

  • Winfred
    Dec 28, 2018

    What does he say when you ask him how he’s feeling? When you are playing make believe with him, try make-believing the preschool scenarios, drop off, play, snack time, pick up, etc. Let him guide the play: what situations does he want to post-process in make believe? That’ll be the biggest clue about what he is struggling with. For example, it could be as simple as the timing with the divorce, in that children tend to assume that things are their fault and all conspiring against them. This may not be it. Maybe there is a bully already, but the clues in his play and speech might give us a root cause with which to derive an action plan. Can he recite the schedule for the day ahead of time? For example, can he verbalize that dad is dropping him off and mom is picking him up? If not, he may quiver when seeing mom because he thought you’d be picking him up, for example. We have to look at various layers of his life because emotions project outward in seemingly random ways until each layer is fully understood. So let’s just start on these two and go from there. 1. What does his make believe preschool entail? 2. Is he fully in tune to the rhythms of his day? Lack of tune to rhythm can lead to feelings of lack of control, anxiety.

  • Jennifer
    Dec 28, 2018

    How long has he been going? It took my daughter who is 3 years old some time to adjust from being home with me or dad all the time to school Monday-Thursday 3hrs a day. Mornings are still rough but once she’s there she does great. If he hasn’t been going for long give it time

  • Vicki
    Dec 28, 2018

    From my own personal experience, I behaved this way (and more so) until the second grade. I think a lot of it stemmed from anxiety about my home life. It was very difficult for me and very frustrating for my mom. I would speak to the folks at daycare. Get a feel for them and their personalities. Find out what goes on with him after you leave. Ask them for their professional advice (and if reasonable, take it) and give them some tips on how you think they can help him adjust. Make sure you are both communicating with him daily and letting him express his feelings about this. Ultimately it will get better but if you think something is off about the daycare or the employees, go with your gut and find someplace else. You could also look at alternatives like a nanny or au pair which are sometimes less costly than daycare. Good luck, I really feel for the little guy!

  • Mr. D
    Dec 31, 2018

    Separation anxiety is normal. Usually it starts from the environmental change. Usually when you have sitting over your house, his mind set is my parents will come back soon, because am still at home. Compare to oh my parents are living my with this random person and strange place, so they might not come back for me. If that makes sense. The child needs to be comfortable and feel safe on his new environment, because his use to your home as his safe place. Communication with his teachers is a good start, maybe bring a stuff toy with him or a security blanket. My child usually bring a car as a security blanket, he’ll not leave the home with it. If the preschool teachers are not helping him adjust, find a new place. I moved my child from a childcare facility. Its been months and I still having the same problem. I requested to watch my child all day using their camera. They teacher wasn’t really involved with the children, explains why my child doesn’t like it, he gets bored in the classroom. Hope this will help and good luck

  • Juliana
    Jan 01

    I had my son crying everyday for 6 months until I decided to change schools. We made the change for a montessori environment and now he loves it so much he asks to go to school during weekends. It was very hard for me to decide for the change because I was afraid it could be worst, but I finally decided because I couldn’t see him suffer anymore. Anyway I don’t know if a change would help but maybe you should consider, since it can be that he does not adapt to the current place but can do well in a different environment.

  • Chad
    Jan 03

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. It’s gotten harder rather than easier with the drop offs, which has been a red flag with me and his mom — usually he’s totally cool with being left with others. I think there’s definitely a “he had to get used to it” factor, but at he same time it feels like maybe he’s just not getting what he needs attention-wise where he is. His mom picked him up at the end of nap time the other day and they had given him some old blanket with worn spots in it — he’s supposed to have a new blanket. And it seems like the teachers cycle through quite a bit throughout the day, so there may be a lack of consistency there. Just little stuff like that that makes both of us feel like this place just isn’t great for what he needs. We’ve got him on a waiting list at a different center that I like and will probably pull him from where he’s going now and do a nanny until a spot opens up.

  • Mr. D
    Jan 05

    Hi Chad, have you looked into childcare centers that are NAEYC accredited?

  • Chad
    Jan 07

    Not specifically. My son started at a new preschool today, and the experience so far has been night and day! He loved it. Teachers were way more engaging, and the center offers a family breakfast time which made the transition super easy. Thanks for your advice, everyone!

  • Mr. D
    Jan 09

    Am glad to hear that you found a place that he loves.