Toddler Behavior: My Child Has A Fear Of Being Alone

Dear BabyShrink, My 4-year-old has a sincere fear of being alone. She’ll drop whatever she is doing to follow someone out of a room if she realizes she’s the last one in it. She is most definitely NOT SHY; she is extremely gregarious and lights up a room. When I ask her why she doesn’t want to be alone, she just says, “because no one’s there with me." She’s never mentioned monsters or bad dreams. Is this something she’ll grow out of? I’d like to eventually go to the bathroom by myself, if you catch my drift!

Signed,

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

Sounds like you've got an extremely social little girl on your hands!  I've got one of those, too.  I can certainly understand how she feels -- people are just more fun to be around! Especially when you can walk and talk and do all those other "big girl" things she can now do.  But it is important to encourage her to play by herself now and then, and this will stretch into longer periods of time of "self-directed activity", which will be really important once she starts school.

You can try starting really small -- while you're together, and she is feeling good and really engaged in some kind of play, say something like, "Oops!  I have to ....."(turn on the dishwasher, grab a glass of water, etc.).  Then leave the room, for like TWO SECONDS.  Then make a grand re-entrance..."See?  Here I am.  I just turned on the dishwasher, and now I'm back with you."  Then re-engage in play with her.  Slowly stretch out these mini-interludes so that she slowly but surely gets used to you being gone for bits at a time.  When she makes a leap (and you're finally able to go pee by yourself...what a concept!), make a big deal out of how GROWN UP she is for waiting nicely while Mommy pees, and how HELPFUL it is to Mommy that she can wait for a few minutes, and now....let's play TOGETHER some more! So you're using the time together as a reward for her being patient for a few minutes.

Try that, Kristen, and let us know how it works!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink