My daughter is two and a half and generally confident, talkative and cheerful. She loves adult company and playing with older children but is shy around her peers. She often spends time away from me with a variety of family members – grandparents, aunts, older cousins and is never upset when I leave.
She has been attending a playgroup with me for two years and is very familiar and comfortable with the setting and the staff, but when we started leaving her there for sessions without me she became anxious and unhappy whilst there and at home began to have tantrums.
Is there anything I can do to help her build confidence amongst children her age? We spend plenty of time with other children in a variety of environments. Her separation anxiety seems to be somehow connected to the presence of other children, when we are home she is free spirited, but when we are out with other children she likes to stay close to me. I worry that I am her favourite playmate!
I am going to blow the common held belief that children need peer experience. You are very devoted to giving your daughter play experiences with other children. Yet, at such a young age your daughter does not need to be able to play with peers. Her social skills are built as a result of her relationships with you and other loving adults in her life. When learning social skills from competent and loving adults, the child develops into a person who relates deeply, lovingly and maturely.
Groups of toddler and young children are not natural and and actually cause some confusion for the child. Young children playing with peers depend on adults’ control to not harm each other. The child learns, “I can’t get along by myself. I depend on supervision and management of those in power.” In addition, your daughter may feel pressured to play with them in order to please you. It is better not to have an agenda for her so she can stay free to direct her life from within herself.
Trust your child. What she prefers is what is best for her. She is right when she prefers to spend her time with adults and older children. She does not need social peer training. Instead, she needs to learn, “How I feel is right,” so she stays rooted in herself and become independent. Social skills develop best through deep love with socially competent people (her own parents) and when the child freely chooses who she wants to be with. Let your child gain social competency through her successful relationships with you, and she will cary that confidence into relating to others, of all ages, when she is ready.
Warmly, Naomi Alodrt www.AuthenticParent.com