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My 4 year-old - ready or not for pre-school?
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My 4 year-old - ready or not for pre-school?

My son is 4 years old and started 1/2-day daily pre-school this year. His birthday's in July, so he's a young 4 compared to most of his classmates. He tends to be overly sensative about certain things so we were concerned he might have trouble adjusting. To our delight, after the first 3 or 4 days of school, he was able to easily separate from me. The key was that I had to leave so he would engage himself in a classroom activity. As long as I was still there, he couldn't allow himself to begin his day at school.

He has had good days and bad days. A good day is when he's happy, talkative, and not easily upset by anything. He doesn't always participate in class, but he's there observing. A bad day happens when he's easily made to cry and whine and does so several times throughout the school day. For example, someone accidently bumped into him, and he cried saying that child "hit me." Other things that have been known to upset him, both in and out of school, are french fries or pizza on his tray/plate (he hates them), auditoriums (he won't go into one for fear there may be people singing), having dirty hands, washing his hands in "hot" (tepid) water, shirts with buttons (refuses to wear them), among other things.

The first few weeks of school were fine. He was learning not to become so easily upset and was having more and more "good days" and participating more.

In Oct. things changed. The clasroom schedule became less predictable because of fieldtrips and Halloween. The day of his first field trip, he was so excited to ride the school bus. When we arrived at school, both the afternoon and morning classes were there, as this was a combined field trip. At some point, my son became convinced that the other kids were not making room for him in the line. He cried and cried, preventing everyone else from hearing the teacher's instructions. I took him to the bathroom but could not calm him down. He worked himself up so much that he said he didn't feel good and didn't want to go on the trip. There have been 3 trips since then and he still doesn't want to go, so we stay home.

Then in Nov. there were 2 weeks in a row that he only went to school one day, due to illness, report card day, and holidays. Now, every morning when I take him to school he cries and doesn't want me to go, or wants to go home. He gives no earlier indication that he doesn't want to go to school. He's happy up until the moment it's time for me to leave.

The past couple of days, I've eventually been able to leave him after about an hour or so. The teacher or a parent will engage him, I've been able to slip out, and he's gone on to have a "good day." But now the class is rehearsing for the upcoming holiday assembly. There's no way he'll want participate in that. This morning was yet another struggle to leave and, for the first time, I left with him crying.

He is easily able to attend a weekly Spanish class, but not pre-school. Not sure what to do. Is he just not ready?
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242606_tn?1243786248
It would not be a mistake to pull him out of the program, but it's also not a compelling option. It may be that he feels vulnerable in larger groups and with alterations in the structure. But, over time he will likely adapt. If you keep him in the program, it's better that you leave him right away instead of waiting with him for a while. If you do change programs, selecting one that is pretty small with a routine sort of structure would likely be sensible. Some children are exposed to too much of a challenge socially at a young age - they need to be introduced gradually.
4 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you for your response to my question. Your insights are much appreciated.

For the past couple weeks, I have committed to leaving right after dropping him off. He says the same thing every time, "But mommy, I don't want you to go." Interestingly, he NEVER says, "I don't want to go to school," or "I want to go home." And he's perfectly happy throughout the entire morning, even as we're walking up the stairs and into the building, putting his coat away, etc. It's only at that moment when he knows it's time for me to leave that he cries and begs me not to go.

So, I tell him I understand that he wants me to stay, but  remind him that school is for big boys and girls and not mommies and daddies. I tell him I love him and that I'll see him later, and then leave. His teachers say that he recovers from this pretty quickly. And when I pick him up after school, he's as happy and can be, like the crying and begging never happened.

So, why is it that I can drop him off at his Spanish class with no problems whatsoever? No drama, no crying, nothing. He's perfectly happy for me to leave him there. My concern is that this "habit" of crying and drama will carry over into Kindergarten (he'll continue to attend this school next year).

Additionally, his teachers want pre-school to be a positive introduction to school for the children. So when my son, or any child, does not want to participate in a particular activity, they don't force the issue. They don't believe in making children do something they are not ready to do. In general, I agree with this, but my concern is that this is a daily occurrance for my son. Are we setting him up for a rough time in Kindergarten and beyond? At what point should he be learning that one needs to listen to the teacher and do what he/she asks even if you don't want to? I fear that he is learning instead that he can simply do (or not) whatever he chooses.

I'm very confused and conflicted about my son's first year of school. Thanks again for your advice!
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242606_tn?1243786248
The likely difference between the two types of situations is the longevity or duration of the anticipated separation.

He's doing fine. There really is no need for you to worry about this now. You're already looking down the road and imagining problems. That is not a helpful thing to be doing to yourself. Even if, by chance, he does react the same way, it's OK. The fact is that he is doing well while in pre-school, even if he has a little distress at the outset.

My advice: take this issue and 'move' it from the PROBLEM category in your mind to the NOT A PROBLEM category.
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Avatar_n_tn
I think it's a good thing that you put your son in pre-school. I don't think 4 is too young. As a matter of fact I put my daughter in pre-school at 4 and it really helped her with some problem she had in dealing with other kids and she was so very shy and being in pre-school helped her to prepare for kindergarten and she is now in 2nd grade and doing wonderful. she has (so far) all A's on her report card. So my personal opinion > You have done your son a great favor and you are helping him more then you know ! Good luck !!
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