11/09/2009 04:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne - My Daughter's Scared Of Being Alone

What burning questions about parenting do you have? Our life coach Joanne Mallon is here with a sympathetic ear and practical suggestions. Email your question to Joanne at this address and say if you'd like your name changed.

Pippa writes:

I've realised my daughters don't spend any time alone. The other day we were messing about and we said we would all list things we were scared of. For one of my daughters, coming in at number three was 'being alone' - which made me think - what do you suggest we do to either reassure her or let her be alone?

She is only 10, and does get plenty of time away from us and her sister as we have always done our best to make sure they aren't always doing the same things and are growing in independence. We need to encourage her to enjoy her own company! Thanks!

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Pippa

I agree with you that it's a good skill to foster if you can encourage your daughter to be more comfortable in her own company. But bear in mind that many adults don't particularly like being alone, and she may turn out to be one of those people. So maybe the challenge here is to make being alone less fearful, even if it's not something that she might choose to do all that often.

It sounds like you've already had a good conversation about fears, so maybe you could take that a step further. Specifically, what is she afraid might happen? What's her reason for thinking this? If her worst fear did come true, how would she deal with this? She will feel more empowered if she has a plan to deal with the situation. So make sure she is comfortable using the telephone or going to a neighbour's house in an emergency.

It may be more useful to quietly build in some alone time for her, without making a big deal of it - send her out to the shop, or nip out for 5 minutes yourself. Don't point it out beforehand ("I am leaving you alone now") but afterwards, casually mention that she was alone, and she coped with it fine. This will build her confidence.

I have been in this situation, as I have started to leave my daughter alone since she turned 9. She absolutely loves it and sees it as a huge grown up treat to be home alone. But when I mentioned it to one of her friend's mums, she was absolutely horrified and would not consider letting her child stay home without an adult.

I think that at this age, you have to treat the child as an individual and encourage their independence, as much as they are ready to be independent. Your daughter may simply not be ready for much alone time right now, but in six months that could all change and you'll be lucky if she wants to be with you at all. So maybe enjoy it while it lasts!

Best wishes


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