19 answers

2 Year Old Having Difficulty with Transitions

HI!

My 2 and a half year old son is in preschool 2 days a week for 2 hours each day. I enrolled him to get him around kids his age (he is a little shy) and I thought he might enjoy it. However, it has been a tough transition. He is just now starting to get over separating from me when I drop him off.

The issue now is that his teachers say he is having tantrums when they move from one activity to another. That he does not want to stop what he is currently engaged in to try something else. Once they get him re-engaged, he is fine again. The problem is, they transition quite frequently, which would mean he is having these tantrums and crying multiple times over the 2 hours.

It also appears that my son is the only child in the class having any difficulty. I seam to be the only parent getting negative feedback. I am now wondering if I made a mistake and enrolled him too early. Perhaps he is just not ready for this and I should pull him out. Any advise??? I would really appreciate it. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I want to thank everyone for such thoughtful and helpful advise! You all know how hard it is to make these decisions on behalf of our kids.
I think I have decided that this program may be too regimented for my little guy. They transition about every 20 minutes. I think I will enroll him in some playgroups and try a Montessori next year. Thanks again for all your advise. It meant a lot to me :)

Featured Answers

I also wouldn't pull him out. My kids were in at that age and I also own a preschool (my kids were 4 and 6 at the time)and it is hard for kids to adjust. We always tell parents to try and hang on until about 6-8 weeks in. The ones who do are usually settled and done with any sort of crying at that point.
That said, I have 19 month olds who come in happy, transition with no problems and go home happy. I also have a 4 yr old who still cries several times a day. Personality does play an important role.
I tell all my parents that no amount of tuition in the world is worth making their child miserable and if it is a situation that I don't think will change I will let them know and have them restart later.
I just had an instance in my 2 yr old class where I begged one mom to hang in there because I knew it was just separation anxiety and the other where after a couple of weeks I told them it was time to take her out. She just wasn't settling and cried (sometimes hysterically) the whole time she was there.
The girl who stayed has tantrums and a really difficult time with transition. Since we have an open concept school we eased her into activities and didn't push when it wasn't important. After a few weeks of this she is transitioning wonderfully and I was as proud of her as her mom was the first day she did a full day with no crying and transitioned to each activity easily.
We have a transition period every 1/2 hr for this age. Plenty of time to settle in and have fun and then we spend about 5 mins transitioning...pushing in chairs, lining up etc.
Good luck with it. Don't feel it is a negative feedback. You need to be aware if he is having difficulty transitioning or adjusting or having a tantrum. I'd be more worried if he was and no one was telling you!

Dont know if its to young but my dau was 3 1/2 and went 4 days a week and cried everyday for the next 2 yrs.
Good luck

More Answers

Hi L.,
First of all, I doubt you're the only parent getting any sort of negative feedback, and if the teachers are making you feel that way, then I would probably switch schools! 2 year olds are mysterious little creatures that are known specifically for their tantrums. If the teachers seem shocked by his behavior, then they obviously have no experience in being around toddlers at all.

That being said, I would leave him in! He'll get the hang of it. If you pull him out, he won't have a chance at learning the routine. Give him some more time. School is a big deal at such a young age, he just needs a little patience and understanding. My son who is the same age, also just started a 2's program and trust me when I say that your son is not the only one in the world having a little difficulty adjusting!

Go with what you're comfortable with but I say give it more time and don't listen to "negative" feedback. Nothing should be considered "negative" at that age. I'm sure your little one will be just fine!

Good luck!!!
L.

1 mom found this helpful

sounds like he's too young. are there any moms groups or clubs that you can join so that your son can have regular playdates? My son has playdates 3 times a week, one time a week at our house and the other two days at our clubhouse for 2 hours. I personally wouldnt put my son into preschool at this age, he's the same age as your son. Not unless I had to because of work or whatnot..try it again in a year is my recomendation! good luck mamma

First of all, I doubt that you are the only parent getting negative feedback. Two year olds are not exactly known for their cooperative nature. If your goal was to have him socialize with other children then perhaps you might consider a different forum such as a Mommy and me type class. Transitions are very difficult for kids this age and as a former preschool teacher, I guess I'm wondering why he's beeing asked to transition so much in a two hour class. I've personally never been a fan of preschool for children under the age of three and even then I can say that there are kids who do not adjust well until they are four. Good luck, go with your gut, and remember that things can change dramatically over the course of a few months. Preschool at two and a half is not essential for learning to interact with other children and in my opinion is inappropriate for many.

I also wouldn't pull him out. My kids were in at that age and I also own a preschool (my kids were 4 and 6 at the time)and it is hard for kids to adjust. We always tell parents to try and hang on until about 6-8 weeks in. The ones who do are usually settled and done with any sort of crying at that point.
That said, I have 19 month olds who come in happy, transition with no problems and go home happy. I also have a 4 yr old who still cries several times a day. Personality does play an important role.
I tell all my parents that no amount of tuition in the world is worth making their child miserable and if it is a situation that I don't think will change I will let them know and have them restart later.
I just had an instance in my 2 yr old class where I begged one mom to hang in there because I knew it was just separation anxiety and the other where after a couple of weeks I told them it was time to take her out. She just wasn't settling and cried (sometimes hysterically) the whole time she was there.
The girl who stayed has tantrums and a really difficult time with transition. Since we have an open concept school we eased her into activities and didn't push when it wasn't important. After a few weeks of this she is transitioning wonderfully and I was as proud of her as her mom was the first day she did a full day with no crying and transitioned to each activity easily.
We have a transition period every 1/2 hr for this age. Plenty of time to settle in and have fun and then we spend about 5 mins transitioning...pushing in chairs, lining up etc.
Good luck with it. Don't feel it is a negative feedback. You need to be aware if he is having difficulty transitioning or adjusting or having a tantrum. I'd be more worried if he was and no one was telling you!

Hi L.
I do think that he is too young if he is having such a difficult time. The 2's are hard enough as it is, and if he's not doing well it wouldn't hurt to pull him out and let him try it again in another year.

My older son is also shy--he started preschool at 3 1/2; it was good for him then--past the 2 year old tantrums and all that. It was still hard for him socially but overall good for him. He is now 5 1/2 and doing much better socially. I never really pushed him, as I feel that kids will come around when they are ready--pushing them just makes the behavior continue.

Do you find that you have problems with him when YOU do transitions with him too? OR is this just at school. I would ask the teacher if she gives a heads up before the transition is happenening? If not, tell her 5 minutes before the next activity to announce that in 5 minutes we're cleaning up. Then again in 2 minutes. Then when it happens he might not be as upset. It will take some time, but if he is given notice that a change is about to happen, it can give him some time to prepare. He will learn. If you have problems with transitions with him I would do this at home as well. That way he has the same continuity. Make sure you follow through - even with the tantrums - at home. If you tell him in 5 minutes the TV is going off and then again in 2 minutes - when you turn it off and he goes crazy - don't give in to him. The tantrums should get less and less once he learns that his tantrums aren't working.

Dont know if its to young but my dau was 3 1/2 and went 4 days a week and cried everyday for the next 2 yrs.
Good luck

I haven't yet read your other responses,but I think taking him out completely will not resolve the problem long term. I waited until my son as 3.75 because we didn't need him to go. But just after the arrival of #2, we decided it would be best for everyone. We entered him around thanksgiving last year (3 days a week 8:30-2:30) and we struggled until about April getting him there. We did not experience issues once he was there.

Some kids just don't like change. Are they bouncing from one activity to another quickly since it is a short period of time? Can they give him a warning a minute or two before moving on to the next thing? If she is an experienced teacher she should be able to cope pretty well and adjust slightly to his needs and give you ways of helping him too. Does he do this at home?

Maybe explore another center in your area and let them know what your issue is and see how they would handle it.

How do you handle transitions at home? Do you let him play with a toy until he gets bored? If so try to get him used to transitioning by doing it at home. Take the time to warn him time is almost up and then explain he can play with his truck later, but now its time to draw pictures or whatever. Decrease the warning times and change his activity often to get him used to it. Frankly at 2 1/2 I dont see why the school keeps changing their activities so often. If he is happy playing with trucks, why not let him? Perhaps the day care is too structured for him.

Sorry your son is having a hard time. It could be more than one thing: maybe he is not ready for this kind of setting where there is a lot of structure in a small amount of time. I am also wondering if the group is a mixed age of 2.5 and 3 yr olds...sometimes that six months makes a world of difference in a childs ability to socialize and understand group dynamics.

I think you need to sit with the teacher and perhaps the director and figure out what the best plan is for your son.

Good luck,

PS: I am sure that you are not the ONLY one getting negative feedback...trust me!

Dear L.,

Your son sounds so much like mine! I mean, my "signature" on this site says "Working mom of a sweet, shy, hilarious 3-year-old boy." I enrolled my son in a 2s class (same thing, two days a week) for much the same reason: hoping a more social setting would help him get over the worst of his shyness. Honestly, it never really worked. My son was never any "trouble"; he just wasn't happy there. He's play on his own, and as soon as other children came over, he'd abandon his project and walk away. I liked the school and the teachers, but I was haunted all year by increasing fears that something was very wrong with my little boy.

What DID work was a change in schools. This year my son attends a Montessori school that emphasizes self-directed learning. It's a very calm, peaceful setting, and the children just "work" using educational materials for a large portion of the morning. Not many transitions, not much by way of social expectations. It has made such a difference for my son! He'll tell me, almost every day, "My old school was loud, but my new school is happy." SO, I really recommend looking at other preschool options. This one just doesn't sound like a good fit.

I'm also convinced that there's just a distinct personality type or temperament out there: kids who are uncommonly sweet, bright, and sensitive -- and transition-resistant and painfully shy. I think the key isn't to change or "fix" the child; it's to find a setting that will work. I'll close with a line from a poem by Marge Piercy:

"Maybe shy is sort of short for shining."

Best wishes,

Mira

Hi L.,
Some children are not ready for the routine and regimentation of school at 2 years old, and really they don't need 3 years of school before kindergarten. If he is not having a good time, it's really not necessary to send him. He may not yet be ready for people to schedule his day for him and to tell him that he has only a certain amount of time to play with the blocks and then he must stop and go to the story corner. It would probably help if he went every day and not 2 days a week. I know a lot of parents start off slowly but when they only go Tues/Thurs, by the time Thurs is over and Tues comes again, it is five days later and they do not get a chance to get used to the routine, it's like starting all over again. You might try doing a similar schedule at home, having stations and time where it's free play, time where it's playdough play, time where it's story and outside time, a set snack time, etc if you aren't currently doing that.
Good luck!

Hi L.,

My daughter was very shy and VERY attached to me. I decided to put her in a Montessori School at 20 months. (Which felt young to me but we both needed it) When I decided to start the program they had me to sit in the room with her for one hour each day while she became comfortable with the transition. My transition time was long.... however, it was the greatest thing that I have done for her and for me.

The school is AMAZING and the philosophy, the social aspects, the education and the nurturing that my daughter receives is priceless. We started with 3 hours/ 3 days a week last year. And now she does 3 full days a week .... and LOVES EVERY MINUTE!

Their days are routine based... meaning Morning circle, Play with Lesson of their choice, snack time, music/art/gym time, lunch time, nap time, and then play time.

The child chooses which activity (or lesson as they call them) to do and can play/learn that activity for as long as they like or as many times as they would like. You should go for a tour ... you will be amazed to walk into a room full of toddlers and watch as there in no fighting, tantrums or crying.... they are each playing adorably with one another. My mouth still hits the floor as I watch in amazement... and my daughter has been going since Sept of 2008!

Anyway, if you have any other questions about the school program feel free to contact me. I love, love, love the school and most of all .... my daughter loves it more than I do!
She skips down the hall to class and gives me a big hug and kiss goodbye and goes right in all happy..... Something I never thought I would EVER witness in my life!!!

Good Luck!

As a teacher, I would suggest you have the teachers warn him that in 10 minutes they will be doing Art, then at 5 min. say the same thing. Give a 2 minute warning. Then go and transition into the next activity.
Also maybe 2 hours might not be long enough time for him, maybe a 3 or 4 hour day might be better because then the schedule may have Free Play which the children can then do what they want.

My personal opinion is to pull him out - he is still a baby at that age. I haven't enrolled my son in any formal setting yet, (he is not yet 3) try a mom's group (meetup.com lists them by area!) and look for local church groups to help him adjust to socialization so it is not such a negative experience.

Hey L.,

As an owner of a preschool I would say getting over the separation is half the battle. I would leave him and once he learns the routine he will stop the tantrums. Most times it is much more difficult for children who only attend a few days a week verses children who attend daily. The process takes longer because their attendance is not as consistent. This is not necessarily a bad thing it simply means it is going to take him longer to catch on to the routine and the classroom rules. Give him a few months and I am sure you will see a different child. If he is having tantrums at home as well try not to give into them so he will learn that this type of behavior is not going to get him what he wants. I would also ask the teachers to please be patient with him and that you are willing to work together to help your son work through these issues. Good luck!!

My advice is that he's already gotten over the separation with you so he has already made a lot of progress. Are the teachers getting frustrated with your son or are they just telling you the situation and are willing to keep working with him? If it's the later, keep him in. If they are getting frustrated, you might want to work with them to keep him in. As preschool teachers, they should be very accustomed to this type of behavior. Ask how you can help and try to ride it out. Like all things, it could be a phase and he might catch on very soon.

I found that my daughter learned so much in her 2 year old program. My friend who has a very shy daughter made great strides in the 2 YO program. It’s a good thing – so try to stick it out. Good luck!

Hi L.,
It sounds that it might be too soon for him to be in preschool. My daughter had issues with seperating. I signed her up for preschool when she was almost 2.5. I new she was going to have issues if she went at that point. Her preschool started a six months later when she was closer to 3 and what a difference it made. Sometimes it takes a couple of months. They change so quick. If you stick it out, it might turn into a negative experience for him. On the other hand, he might learn to adjust fine. I would go with what the teachers say and your gut.
Hope this helps.

give it a little more time. my son cried always at the beginning of the year up until he was in kindergarden. can you try him only one day a week for the next few weeks.. and maybe find a play group where you are with him... like with others in your neighborhood.. so you can help him when things change.. good luck

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