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Child Caring

Why is preschooler unhappy to see mom at pick-up? He's having a good time!

Hi! I feel a bit of a lose end -- my little boy, who is nearly 3, is lovely at home. We are very close have a great bond. He goes to pre school for 2 half days a week. When I take him in, he cuddles me, holds my hand and wants me to stay although he is getting better now and enjoys pre sch which is great. The problem that is getting to me is when I pick him up from pre sch. As soon as he sees me, he goes into a sulk and chucks things and basically acts as if he doesn't like me. Why does he act like this when we are so close normally? I have another son age 4 and half and he has always run to me, "mummy, mummy!" and is happy to see me. Any tips on how picking him up from pre sch can be easier and why he acts this way?

Many thanks for reading.

From: Sarah, Devon, UK

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Dear Sarah,

The behaviors you're describing (the drop-off and the pick-up) sound like your son is happily attached to you and also happily enjoying his preschool. That he doesn't come running to you and even seems unhappy at the sight of you is most likely because he's involved in what he's doing and doesn't want to leave the activity. That's good news!

To deal with it:
1. Don't be put out by his behavior and don't take it personally, it's not about you. Kids often have a hard time making transitions from one thing to another.

2. Is there a general dismissal time or do children leave at staggered times? It would probably be easier if other children were leaving at the same time as he is. If not, ask the teachers to help prepare him for your arrival: "Mummy will be here when you finish xxxx."

3. When you arrive, instead of expecting him to come to you, you go to him and help him with the transition by engaging with him. If he's doing something you can only watch, tell him, "Show me how you do x!" "You can show me two times before we have to get ready to leave."

4. Create a ritual of your arrival and subsequent joint departure. Once he finishes showing you what he's doing, if he still doesn't want to leave, suggest something you can do together: "Let's read one story book together in the corner, and then it will be time for us to go." The first time or two, this might be rocky, but then you can just be firm: "We have time for our story if we read it now."

Reading a story together will give you a chance to be physically close and to have a cuddle, a tactile reminder to him of how much he likes to be with you. The whole process I'm describing is a way for him to feel like he's in control. Right now, he feels caught unawares. From his perspective, Mom arrives and he's supposed to just drop the fun thing he's doing and leave. No fair! Giving him warning and a chance to show you the activity is a way for him to feel some control.

Oh -- and why didn't your older son behavior this way? Because every kid is different.