Q: I'm a stay-at-home mom who attends a moms' group that meets every two weeks. Every time I leave my 30-month-old in the play group, which is supervised by two older women, he cries. Shouldn't this clingy phase be over by now?
Not necessarily. Distress over separation generally peaks between 18 and 24 months, but such distress in a child your son's age isn't cause for concern.
Keep in mind that the only way your toddler is going to learn that separation from you is OK is if you separate from him without any show of anxiety, as if it's the most normal thing in the world. You mustn't give him the impression that he can cause you to change decisions by acting like his world is coming apart. The way to do this is to just give him a kiss, hand him over to the person in charge and leave. And when you return, you mustn't act as if you have something to apologize for.
On the other hand, this might not be separation anxiety. Your son may be feeling overwhelmed in a group of toddlers. Children this age don't play cooperatively. In a group, they are more likely to act like independent island nations that launch pre-emptive strikes at one another every so often, snatching toys and so on. The relative aggressiveness of some of the other children in the group may be intimidating.
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If so, that's not reason for you to stop attending your moms' outing, but you might consider leaving your son at home with a sitter.
My final word: Take a break from child-rearing more than once every two weeks. How about twice a week? The more often you separate from him, the more quickly he's going to adjust to separation.
Dealing with poker
Q: What do you think about a 13-year-old child playing poker with my kids, ages 8 and 9? Even though they weren't using money, I didn't think it was age-appropriate, so I stopped them. Do you think I am being overly protective?
Is the issue playing cards, playing poker, or playing cards with an older child? If card-playing is the issue, that's a values issue that I have no right to comment on.
If you don't mind your kids playing cards, but you don't like the idea of poker, then I'll point out that in the absence of betting, playing poker is no different than playing Old Maid except that poker, unlike Old Maid, might improve your kids' understanding of probability and general math skills.
If the issue is playing cards with an older child, my feeling is that as long as the play is adult-supervised, there's no inherent harm in the situation.
Kids who are picked last
Q: A bunch of the parents in our community have decided to keep our kids out of organized sports and let them organize their own games. It's working out wonderfully, but we've noticed that some of the children always seem to be picked last. Should the adults get involved in this?
What a wonderful thing you folks have done! Letting children "own" their games helps them learn invaluable skills - including how to resolve conflict without adult intervention - that they are deprived of learning when well-intentioned adults organize their games for them.
I would definitely let the kids have the freedom to pick whom they choose in the order they choose. When I was a kid, I was often picked last. I didn't like it, but it only caused me to want to work harder and get better. No child should be deprived of that, either.