My niece is 2 and half years old and she does not mix with anyone else. I am happy that she is like that with strangers but when it comes to family she is still the same. Does not play with other kids either. She has been very reserved ever since she was 8 months. The bigger problem is she does not stay at child care center even for 10 mins without her mom. I wish i could help my sister with some free time for herself on weekends and take care of my niece but she would not stay with me unless her mom is around all the time. I know she is the only child so she is more attached to her mom but its very difficult for my sister sometimes as her daughter just starts crying when she sees other people. I think she mostly worried that they would take her away from her mom. Can anyone guide me to help her overcome this behavior at least with people whom she sees regularly.
In this situation, I think the best thing is to get her used to the idea in stages.
- You come over and all three of you (niece, mom, and you) have a good time playing together.
- You come over and all play together, but mom gets up for a few minutes to do a chore nearby (within the child's sight).
- You come over and mom does things for a little longer and a little farther away (maybe in the next room).
- You come over and say, "Niece, let's outside and look at (something interesting). Mom comes, but follows behind you and niece.
- You take niece outside for a few minutes, and mom stays inside, but near the door where niece can see.
- You gradually take the child farther for longer periods.
At any step, you may need to slow things down, or even go back a step. Eg., if mom has stepped out of the room and niece start to get upset, first you try saying something like "Mommy just has to load the diswasher, she'll be right back!" If that doesn't help, try having mom talk to her from the other room ("Mommy is just in the kitchen, I'll be back in a minute!"), but have her come back if needed ("See, I'm right here!"). Keep trying until she is comfortable with mom being "x" distance away.
The goal here is to get her to both trust you as a caretaker, and also to trust that mom will come back, or you will bring her back to mom soon. At each stage, both you and mom should act very excited that auntie is going to play with her/show her birds outside/take her on an adventure to the park.
You can use the same concept as you get her used to being around other kids.
- "Look, there are some other kids having fun in the park, too!"
- "Look, another little girl is swinging! That looks fun! Why don't we swing, too?"
- "Look, Billy is playing in the sandbox, why don't we play there, too!"
- "Look, Susie is building a sandcastle, let's ask if we can help!"
- "You and Joey sure are having fun playing together! Why don't we ask him and his mom to come over for a snack?"
- "Let's see if Katie wants to come over to our house and play this afternoon!"
Joe gave you some good insight about the child care center situation. One other thing that I would add, you said that niece can't stay in a child care center for even 10 minutes without mom. I suspect the problem here is actually with mom and how she is handling the dropoff. Typically in child care situations, it's best for mom to say a quick goodbye, reassuring the child that she will return, and then leave. If this isn't happening, that is the problem. I've never personally seen a child who didn't calm down pretty quickly once mom was out of sight. The workers there should be used to handling separation anxiety in children and will almost certainly be able to distract her within a few minutes. Mom can stay in a lobby or other area away from the children, if that is available and would make her feel better. Any decent center will make sure that they have a way to contact her in case there is a problem after she has left.
Separation anxiety is common in children of this age, and if her mom hasn't worked on it substantially then it's not particularly surprising to me that she have these fears. Our three and a half year old still hates going anywhere that he isn't with mom/dad, and while he will go to daycare/preschool now without crying most of the time, it took a long time with those folks.
First off, as Mike points out, this is up to his mom and dad to work on, first and foremost. All of the rest of this answer is addressed to them, if they choose to take this approach. There's nothing wrong with parenting in a manner where you nurture your child's attachments; Mayim Bialik (Blossom, The Big Bang Theory) for example expounds the theory of Attachment Parenting, and while that certainly doesn't suggest spending every waking hour with your child, that has a very different approach than I'm going to suggest, and is not an unreasonable one.
First off, daycare separation is manageable, once you start to do it. I used to spend a lot of time hanging out in our daycare in the mornings (30-45 minutes a day, usually) because I'd get there out of sync with the trains, and I saw a lot of kids having separation anxiety and difficult drop offs. I also saw every single one of them deal with it better and better, and in almost every case the child stopped crying and started playing within five minutes of the parent leaving.
The key is to become comfortable with the daycare teacher, both as a parent and child. Spend a day or two with them the whole day, so the child sees that you feel the teacher is safe, and that you see the teacher is doing a good job taking care of your child. Most daycares will allow this, in my experience; choose one that does.
Then, talk to your child about the next day: you will drop them off, and then you will come back when the clock looks like this (whatever time that is). Maybe noon, that's easy. Then, that day, drop her off, give her a firm hug, remind her you're coming back at exactly noon, then leave. Don't sneak off, she should see you leaving; but leave, whether she cries or not. (Think Lot's Wife here.) Then come back precisely at noon (or whatever you agree on - several hours later). Repeat that for a week or two, and then extend it to a full day.
Your child will probably have a tough first day, but by the end of the week will probably be crying for a few minutes then will see the other kids playing and will go to join them. Eventually, you'll find that she doesn't cry every time you drop her off any more, and eventually it will stop except on sleepy days or low blood sugar days.
For other things, we find that we have to take our child into account when planning activities. We tried soccer last summer, and that was an abject failure, because it was 25 kids 3-5 years old, with two or three coaches, who couldn't give very much individual attention at drop off. We gave up after three weeks as he clearly didn't want to do it. Ski school on the other hand was fine: dropoff to one teacher who happily took him and gave him a lot of attention, and then he cried for two minutes and had an amazing day afterwards. It just depends on the others involved. Keeping your child's needs in mind means you can plan activities and plan babysitters or whatnot carefully while still living your life the way you want to.
And honestly, if living your life the way you want to means spending 24/7 with your child, I won't disagree with that. I work full time, but other than that I spend nearly all of my time with my children, and I'm very happy to do that. I'd rather spend time with them than watch TV or movies or play games or go out. That really depends on the parent, and you should be aware of the possibility of burn-out, but if you're happy doing things the way you want to do them, go for it. Your child will eventually need to leave your nest, but there's lots of time for that later.