Hello, I will try not to make this too long. I have a beautiful 3 yr old dd who will be 4 next month. For a little back round, she has always been a cautious, careful kid who was slow to warm up and she never liked strangers. From way before the experts even claim they can tell a stranger, I swear she knew and preferred her inner circle.
Right after she turned 2, her social anxiety went up several notches. She started acting afraid of other kids at the playground, and story time. If, for instance, another kid is on a play thing, she will literally just avoid it. She will only go on things that are empty. If she is about to slide and another kid comes up, she sort of panics and just decides she doesn't want to to do it after all. This is true of any plaything or toy.
Right around the time this all started, she and I signed up for a parent/child class. It went really badly, and we didn't even finish it. All the kids were older than her (it was a 2-3 class) and she had many toys grabbed from her, etc. I always thought this added to her anxiety.
So, everyone told me she would just grow out of it. I decided not to do anything "formal" with her and we didn't sign up for anymore classes when she was 2. I thought she just might need more time with mama at home. We kept it to playgrounds, storytimes and things like that.
So, this fall I decided it was time to go back out there. We signed up for another 2-3 class together with a different teacher. She seems to really enjoy all we do there, and I am so glad she is getting to experience some positive things. However, having said that, she still does not play with or near any of the other kids. She is extremely attached to me. She often needs me to hold her or hold her hand the first hour of class. She will literally not go 2 inches from me. If for instance, she is sitting at the table doing the art project and we need some more glue or something, she won't let me go get it without her. If I even suggest such a thing, she gets kinda panicky. Her teacher tries to talk to her, and she won't even look at her, she turns her head and gets really uncomfortable. I should say, she has ended up in tears a few times in class, I think when things get kinda overwhelming. When this has happened, I hug her and love her, but try not to bring attention to it, I try to move us on.
I'm struggling with several things. I really want to be supportive and not make her feel like something is wrong with her, but sometimes while in class I just want to cry when I see how hard my daughter struggles and then all these other kids (who, by the way are younger, this time she ended up being the oldest in class) separate from their moms and play or at least let their moms go get their lunchbox while they wait, etc. I have to honest, I'm shocked at the level of social skill. We have kids who come up to us saying, "can I play?", etc. I honestly don't think my daughter knows about any of that kind of stuff. (not that she even wants to). I have tried to talk to her and role play interactions with other kids. I don't think she has to make friends, but I hate that she seems soooo uncomfortable with other kids. I have also tried to tell her she doesn't have to speak to her teacher but she should look at her when shes talking. But, this doesn't seem to be the right approach for my daughter. Like some other things she struggled with, (potty training) she would get really uncomfortable if we tried to talk to her about it, and act ashamed. I always feel like I am just making her feel bad about herself (something I don't want to do at all !) instead of helping her. That is totally her personality, she kinda needs to work things out herself, but I also don't want to just let things go, you know?
Some other issues, we are still struggling with toys being grabbed from her or a kid trying to take her seat. Totally normal for the age group, but what worries me is my daughter does nothing, no protest, and just looks scared and shocked. If I don't notice it, it just happens. We have role played what to do when your toy is taken, but again, she almost seems to take it like I am telling her she is wrong. I guess I'm just mentioning that because (in case you didn't already pick up on it) my daughter is not typical. I have seen even the quiet kids at least hold something out of reach if they feel another kid is trying to take it. And I have seen all kids grab a toy, but not my daughter, even though I have "taught" her that, she just never would.
Now, her class is about to end, and she can go into the 3-4 class. This is 2 days a week and the parent comes as well, but I am worried about the dynamic. In our class, it is not a problem for her to be by my side at all times. Even during parent discussion, she prefers to sit with me. I think the next class, the parents have discussion, while other parents watch the kids play. As of now, there is NO WAY my daughter would do that. And here is my dilemna. I really think I need to keep exposing her to things, but I also want to follow her lead. I have gone back and forth on how "attached" I should let her be. Part of me feels like I should follow the norm of putting her in classes without mom, etc. But, my heart believes that really, it is OK that she is like this. Why does she have to not be so attached already? I would like to try the class, but I also don't want to do something my heart doesn't feel right about because of pressure from the teacher, you know?
I have to say, I think I would feel better if her class was a bit more diverse in terms of personality. It seems to me that all the kids we are around are so confident and comfortable. There doesn't seem to be another kid who is a bit shy even. So, my point is, she really stands out and I think that can make it harder.
I guess I am just feeling a bit flustered. I would really like her to grow at her own pace, but I can feel that people think I should "make" her do things. I want her to be able to take a swim class or dance class, but I honestly don't see her being able to do things on her own at this point. I'm starting to get worried about her future regarding school, etc. I want her to feel that I accept her as she is, but I can't lie, because having her so attached to me can be draining and I can get annoyed.
I'm not even sure what the point of this post is. I guess I am worried about her social development and was looking for some support or comments from people who parent a bit more in my style. Thanks for listening and reading all this.