Our 11-year-old daughter will not go anywhere, other than school or the sitter’s, without us or her 13-year-old sister. She tells me she’s not comfortable attending a birthday party or even visiting a friend’s house by herself. However, if I take her to these events, she has a wonderful time.


Your daughter is uncomfortable being in unfamiliar places without a family member or other protective figure, such as her sitter or teacher. If this is a recent development, it may be that something frightening has happened when she was alone, or she may be distressed after learning of something frightening that happened to someone else.

Reassure her that you will understand if she tells you she is afraid of something. This may help her open up to you.

Whatever the cause for her worry, you will need to help your daughter separate from you. Gently and calmly, try talking with her about your desire to help her manage being on her own, and develop a plan together. Suggest that you will continue to take her to parties, but will only stay for a few minutes until she feels comfortable. Then leave. Be firm while making it clear you are confident she’ll be fine without you. Plan a way that she can be in touch with you if necessary, whether that’s by calling your cellphone or the neighbour you will be visiting for the duration of the party. If she contacts you after you’ve left, try to help her by talking the worries through, rather than running back to rescue her.

Your daughter’s confidence will likely grow with each successful experience of managing on her own. Gradually, you will stay for less time and, eventually, be able to simply drop her off.

Written by Dr Ruwa Sabbagh. Originally published in Today’s Parent, May 2008.

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