My 3 year old son has been "high need" since birth. We work full time, so he has been with a neighbor during the days, but will never stay with another sitter or his grandparents. We are into day 5 of nursery school and he cries 1 of the 2 1/2 hours he is there. He says he hates school and hates his teacher. (This is a child-directed center, so it is his choice of what he plays.) He complains at night that he doesn't want to go and gets up the same way. At a birthday party today I noticed he did not interact with the other kids, but watched from a distance. He has rapid mood swings that are unpredicatable. One moment he is wee-mannered and polite and the next he is growling and hitting. He is generally rude to people and tells them to go away. He does know how to be polite, but generally is not. I have a master's degree in education, and have tried redirecting and providing choices. He states those are not his choices! Could he have a seperation anxiety disorder? Would that cause the apparent anger as well?
Yes, your son might display Separation Anxiety Disorder, but that alone would not account for his anger and oppositionality (in fact, most children with Separation Anxiety alone are more on the quiet/worried end of the spectrum).
The difficult behavior can be the result of developmental immaturity and his not really being ready for the kinds of social interactions he's encountering. The behavior can also indicate an emerging Mood Disorder, though this is very difficult to diagnose in a child so young. If there is any family history of Mood Disorder (depression, bipolar illness, e.g.), it would significantly increase the probability.
It wouldn't hurt to make an appointment with a child mental health professional to help you sort out what is occurring, and to help you develop a plan to respond to your son.
I work with a individual that has these rapid mood swings and also a cousin with the same mood swings, my friend is diagnosed manic depressive and my cousin is diagnosed with bipolar personality. You might try looking into the bipolar disorder as a possible explanation as to what your son is experiencing.
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