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.

  • Do you think you are the right person (as an aunt) of taking a lead in changing any of this? For what it is worth: I think it starts with the parents. If they are confident it is alright to stay with others (you for example) without the presence of the parents then the child may become confident as well. What does your sister think of this? She is the one that has to make the choice to leave her child, crying or not, with others when the moment is there. Apr 7, 2015 at 7:52
  • I think i am the perfect person to ask this question. My sister has no clue of what to do about this. My sister asks me if I can help in any way. She keeps asking me to take her daughter out to the park for half an hour at least everyday just to get her used to other people, but i am not going to do it until my niece happily comes with me. I want her to learn that her mom may be away for some time but she would come back to her soon. I have tried taking her out but she keeps crying for her mom.I am too afraid of taking her anywhere at all.
    – User56756
    Apr 7, 2015 at 23:23
  • If I was that kid and my mom has no clue of what to do about this and my aunt is trying something but is too afraid of taking me anywhere at all. I know how I would feel, unsafe and insecure. It feels like you are communicating to the kid that she has a problem. The point is that there is no problem, feeling insecure and not knowing what to do isn't going to give her the trust she needs. When mom needs to be somewhere and aunt needs to babysit, than that is the case. Crying or not, it is necessary,and mom will come back later, bye, kisses, see you soon, I always come back to pick you up. Apr 10, 2015 at 5:16
  • I don't believe children at that age always feel the way we image they would. Its very unpredictable. I have times when she would love to read books with me or laugh at songs i sing to her and some days she would throw the books away and not let me touch the book at all or start crying at the very song that pleased her(all this with her mom around) . What you would feel if you were child is not relevant to my question. Though thank you for your reply.
    – User56756
    Apr 10, 2015 at 6:05
  • I was not concerned about her being this way. My sister put my name as a guardian on her child care form. I thought i would never have to go to pick her up as her parents are always there. But my husband told me the other day that his mother died of cancer when he was 10 and his aunt came to pick him up that day from school to take him to hospital. I just thought anything can happen and now i am looking for a little help from experienced parents. Thank you all for your kind responses.
    – User56756
    Apr 10, 2015 at 6:09

2 Answers 2


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.

  • Thank you for your suggestions. I will share this post with my sister, I think she might find it very useful. I know i did not like school drop offs for a long time. But i was very friendly with my family other than mom and dad. Maybe that's because I had an elder brother and sister at home. My niece is the only child so it may be bit harder for her I guess. Thank you once again.
    – User56756
    Apr 7, 2015 at 23:31

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