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How can I help my 2-year-old feel comfortable with others?
Q: I need help! I have an almost 2 year old boy. He is my first and I am a stay-at-home mum. I belong to a group called MOPS, where my son goes to class to play with other kids and the mothers go to a room for their "time." He is having an awful time when I leave. He is so used to being with me, my husband, or my parents all the time. Any advice?
A: Yes, I have some advice to help you and your son. First, I want you to relax in just knowing that your little boy is behaving in a very normal way for his age. Two-year-olds have a difficult time believing they can be on their own. The sight of mummy gives them their sense of security. Now, your job as a parent is to slowly help your son gain confidence that he will be okay, even though he is away from you. Here are some of my best tips for you:
  • Explain to the other mothers you will have to miss a couple of meetings, or maybe a part of the meetings, because you need to help you son adjust to the new play class. The other mothers will understand. I recommend you find a spot somewhere off to the side of his play class and just sit there with a magazine. Most likely, your son will be glued to you. In time, though, he will begin to venture away from you as he becomes distracted by a toy or some of the children. When he does venture away, notice how he will rush back to you for reassurance: you are like his safe harbor. Don't fuss with him. Don't offer him more attention and fun than he can have with the play class. Just be cool and read your magazine. He will repeatedly pull away from you and have fun, and then come back to you—your son is practicing being on his own. Before returning home, show your son where you meet with the other mothers so he knows you are not far away. After about five sessions like this, tell him you are going to be with the other mothers. Expect him to cry, but stand strong and leave. He will calm down in a little while, because now he has made a connection with the people in the play class and has practice being away from you.


  • Ask one of the women who works at the play class if she can come by your house some day for lunch. This visit will give your son a chance to become more familiar with one of the play ladies. During the visit, she can fuss a little with your son and have some fun with him, and you will be building a bridge between yourself and the play class.


  • At home, start getting your son used to separating from you. You do this by playing with him and letting him know that when the kitchen timer rings, you have to do some work and stop playing. Leave your son with an attractive video or a special toy that you keep on a shelf and only bring out at times like this. Place an expandable gate at the door and leave. Chances are he will cry, but he will be able to see you and begin to get used to being separated from you.


  • I also recommend playing the peekaboo game with your son. Children love this game and it gives them practice knowing that even though they can't see mum for a mument, she is still there. In this game, mum disappears (because the little blanket is over his head) and mum re-appears (because the child pulls the blanket off).


  • Spend some time at McDonalds in the play area. While you're dining on hamburgers, your little guy will wander away from the table to play with the other children. This will also give him practice at separating from mum.

All these tips will help you to help your son become more confident in enjoying the world away from mummy.