My son is two years old and is an active child. While he met all his milestones as per his age, I’m worried about him as I’ve recently learnt that he’s having trouble making friends with other children at his daycare centre. He interacts with everyone at home and enjoys playing with all his cousins but his teachers have informed me that he does not interact a lot with his peers and likes to play all by himself. What could possibly be the reason that he shuts himself at his play school? Should I be concerned? Please advise.
Tarika Bhatia, Mumbai
Query answered by Dr Bijal Shrivastava MBBS and MD (Pediatrics), neotologist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital. She works full-time as a pediatric consultant and has been a pediatric practitioner for the last 12 years.
Thank you for writing in. Let me assure you that this concern is one that you share with a lot of mothers, and you’re not alone. Remember, this is all a part of growing up. If you try and understand the personality of toddlers, you will realise that this is all part of their development and you have nothing to worry about.
Your son might not have any problems interacting with all at home, as his family members are all familiar people and he is accustomed to them. However, you may have noticed that your child hides behind you when you have guests over, or someone unfamiliar to him comes to visit. You may have also noticed that he takes some time to get acquainted with that stranger. This is known as ‘stranger anxiety’, a normal development phase in all children, beginning at around eight to 10 months of age. Now that he’s attending playgroup, you have to understand that he’s suddenly surrounded by strangers. Add to that the fact that it’s not just one or two new people, but many! Moreover, this unfamiliar environment may cause his body to release the stress hormone, known as cortisol. However, don’t be alarmed as this is all part of your child’s healthy development, and it will gradually settle down over time.
Another reason your child may have difficulty opening up is because at home, he is constantly surrounded by the people he loves, and is showered with attention. At the day care, your son is not the only child present, and the attention by the teachers and caretakers, will be divided amongst all the children. All children share similar experiences of trying to adjust to their new surroundings and learn how to play and share with others. Initially, toddlers indulge in what is known as parallel group play. This is where they participate in lone play with toys. However, if you closely observe them, you’ll notice that they are observing others and imitating them. The ‘give and take’ form of play, known as cooperative play, does not really develop till they are four to five years old.
Your concerns are completely understandable, but your son’s behaviour is nothing to worry about. When he is ready, he will adjust to his surroundings, as all toddlers do. The only difference remains that some children adapt quickly while some take a little time. With the amount of information available online, you may be worried about certain disorders like autism spectrum disorders. However, children with such disorders don’t only indulge in sole play, they also have reduced eye contact, have speech delay, etc., and this form of behaviour continues even in their home environment.
I advise you to be just a little patient. In time, your son will seamlessly fit in with his new environment, and before you know it, will make plenty of new friends. |MB