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DD with anxiety about being alone – how to help
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Posted 09 December 2019 - 08:55 AM
DD is 12 years old and just finishing primary school. Year 7 is at a different school. We have seen a psychologist a handful of times this years for anxiety related issues, the main thing we worked on was sleep (very poor at falling asleep, especially bad away from home like on camp or at grandparents house) which we have had success with. So we stopped seeing the psychologist.
Moving to a new school mean I have 2 children in 2 schools and logistics will be a pain because DD won’t use public transport to get home on her own. She has been on and off public transport since she was a baby so it’s not unfamiliarity with how public transport works. We have had 2 steps forward and then 2 steps back on independence the last couple of years. Staying home by herself (half an hour, not hours and hours) a few times then refusing to be alone, but can’t tell me why. Walking up to bakery to buy bread by herself, and now refusing to go alone. Will walk from home to primary school in the mornings by herself but I think she runs into friends along the way. Actually choose to leave home alone, before I am ready to leave with her younger brother. Will be at home with her younger brother but not by herself. They currently walk home from school 3 days a week, they call me when they get home and are home just the 2 of them for about an hour before I get home from work. Next year as DS is too young to walk home solo, he will go back into after school care and she SHOULD take bus from outside new school, 10 minute ride, then 10 minute walk and would be home about 45 minutes before I get home - I’m driving in that time so she could call me for a chat if she wanted to hear a friendly voice. Currently she says she won’t do this, so she’ll have to sit in the school library until I can collect her about 5pm – 3 days a week. She can’t tell me why she won’t be alone.
I’m just off the phone and child psychologist can’t see her until February. I will ask around and see if I can find someone in my local are who can see her earlier. But if I can’t, does anyone have any bright ideas on how I can help her myself from home?
Many thanks for any ideas
Posted 09 December 2019 - 09:12 AM
Is there anyone in the street where you live who you know who is at the highschool that she could buddy up with? Just so she knows someone who is going the same way she is. Anxiety doesn’t necessarily have to have a reason. Maybe she doesn’t feel safe alone and so is avoiding it.
Edited by mayahlb, 09 December 2019 - 09:12 AM.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 09:22 AM
I think she's come up with a good solution (staying at the library). I probably wouldn't push it, she might not be ready.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 09:26 AM
OP, I went through something similar at the same age - even now as a 45 year old I remember the feeling of being completely terrified of being alone. I missed half of year 7 because I was so scared I was going to be abandoned...
The fear is real so please be gentle on her - if I were you I would give her a lot of positive re-enforcement, tell her she is safe, that she is loved, that she will not be left alone etc...
Hope she is ok...
Posted 09 December 2019 - 09:59 AM
My 12 year old goes through similar stages. Sometimes he likes being left alone and other times (like now) he doesn't like it.
The way I see it is he is only 12. Still young. I always have a back up plan available for him if he isn't comfortable because I remember very well being uncomfortable walking and being alone at that age but was forced to (by lack of other options I think) and I don't want him feeling the same way.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:22 AM
Staying at the school library is a great option if it's open til 5 each day. Ours has a teacher rostered on a couple of days a week for "homework club". Even if yours doesn't, she will be able to finish homework/assignments/study/read books/be around people/feel safe. This will allow her other afternoons and weekends to be freed up to have fun.
I wouldn't try to find a new psych sooner unless you were unhappy with the last one. Start school, get used to that, use the library, see the psych and then look at making small changes if recommended by the psych. Starting high school is scary enough. There are so many kids (particularly girls) with school avoidance - you don't want to get there if you can avoid it.
She is telling you what she needs to feel ok. Just go with it for now. Reassure her that she is awesome just the way she is and is loved. You are doing the right thing by seeking help early.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:33 AM
It sounds like her anxiety has ramped up - going to a new school, leaving primary school - it's all happening here with our Miss-12, so I hear you.
I think she's actually come up with a great solution. Three days a week she goes to the school library and hangs out and then waits for you.
It's really frustrating - as a parent - when you know your child can do X - but their anxiety kicks in and they refuse to do it.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:37 AM
My 12yo DS is the same. He's taken to listening to spotify with headphones to calm/distract his anxiety. He listens to his music while walking to and from school, being alone at home, sleeping away from home (camp, dad's), and also plays music out aloud while he's in the shower.
It's not something I've suggested or encouraged at all as I worry he relies on it too much, but it works for him, so that's good enough for me.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 12:04 PM
We had similar with our now DD14. She was quite worried about the move to High School and only knew one kid going there from the same primary school. She also doesn't like being at home alone and wouldn't walk/ride home from school on her own.
What worked for us was that initially at high school, she stayed in the library till I could get there. During the year, she made friends with 2 other kids who lived nearby and now they all ride bikes to/from school together.
Not that this will necessarily suit your family, but we also got a dog which made her feel less anxious, if it was just her at home (with the dog!). She is at home on her own for about 45 minutes a couple of nights a week.
I'd give her time, I think the library option is fine, it worked for us.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 12:13 PM
It’s a lot of change at once for her, and it sounds like it’s kicked her anxiety into overdrive. Is her compromise doable? You might even find after a couple of months when she settles in she is happy to give being alone a go.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 12:22 PM
I would argue that making the decision to stay in the library til you can pick her up is a form of independence and augers well for her deciding when she is ready to take the next step.
I see from your sig that your children are same age as mine and I certainly wouldn’t think for my DD that being at home with her younger brother would any way reduce her anxiety, it would in fact more likely increase it!
If she’s happy to leave home now to walk to school and she meets friends on the way that is great. Maybe she will find a friend at high school going home a similar way. Arriving at school is a known quantity though, bell will go, class will be in the room etc. Coming home to an empty house is a different matter. Perhaps some routine could be set up to help her know what to do when she gets home, or call in at a neighbours or something for a chore?
Posted 09 December 2019 - 12:25 PM
agree with PPs, it's a lot of change at once, try the library for a while and see how she goes. She can get her homework done, bonus.
It takes a while to build up to going places on your own, even without anxiety.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 12:32 PM
My son is generally a go with the flow child but I think he is feeling a little uneasy with the fact he is going from his primary to a big high school, he has done the transition days and we are doing things like getting uniform but spreading it out so every week or so we are doing one thing to work towards it.
We are letting him start next next year and will take it from there, with my son I don't want to make too much of a fuss of the change as for him that is counter-productive he works it all out for himself in his own way, we will only step in then next year if we have to.
He may not do things the way we would do or we want him to but he is the one that has to go through it so we are there is he wants and if we actually see an issue we will address it then.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 03:37 PM
I agree with PP who said her suggestion to stay in the library was a sign of independence. Part of kids maturing is making their own decisions - not necessarily the ones we would make. She will probably have lots of homework so the plan might work well. You don’t want fear to hold her back but maybe you could gently raise the idea of taking the bus once a week in term 2?
Posted 09 December 2019 - 04:08 PM
I'm with the others - the library does sound like a great option.
My DS also has quite bad anxiety, and having just finished year 8, is now confidently catching 2 buses and a train home from school most days. He started with the library after school too (in year 6), but is now quite confident to get home alone when he wants to.
He also likes the library though, as he gets his homework done uninterrupted (and with teacher support if needed) and can then relax when he gets home - which also drastically decreases his anxiety around work-load and studying. I let him choose each morning, and sometimes he will call from school during the day to let me know he's changed his mind and wants to go to the library instead.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 04:17 PM
The library does sound like a good option - so if she is comfortable with that choice I wouldn't push.
However is there any chance you could practice the bus route a few times (weekends even) before school starts? Might make her feel better about it?
After a few weeks she might meet some girls who are also travelling on the bus in the same direction and she might feel better about that option.
In the interim - go with library option.
Edited by MarciaB, 09 December 2019 - 04:18 PM.
Posted 09 December 2019 - 06:23 PM
If you have any flexibility with your work, would it be possible for you to get home a bit earlier one day a week (say) during term 1 so that she can catch the bus home and you already be there, or maybe then step up to her only being home for 10 or 15 minutes alone. And do the library the other days.
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