Do only children tend to be afraid of being alone in a room?

Dixie - posted on 07/30/2010 ( 43 moms have responded )

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My 9-year old son is often afraid of being by himself in a room. This is worse after dark, but even during the middle of the day he would rather be with another person even if he's board than to be playing something he loves to do in a room by himself. He tells me he's scared, but won't say what specifically he's scared of. I thought he'd grow out of it by now. Is this a typical reaction for a single child?

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Erica - posted on 11/12/2012

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Im glad you asked and posted this question!! Im losing it with my little girl. She has always been scared of being in the bathroom and now being alone in any room. She will literally run to me even if i am just a few feet from her. It has gotten way worse and she is now 7 yrs old. She has wet her pants refusing to go to the restroom. We are all very VERY frustrated.

Laura - posted on 07/31/2010

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Being an only child doesn't really matter, IMO; it may be simply part of his personality. He likes to be with people. I have a sibling, but always prefered to be by myself (alone). My husband doesn't; he prefers people. Our duaghter is an oly child and has gone through spells where she likes to be with others and then she gets tired of people and goes off to be by herself. Many kids that are "onlies" do develop an ability to self-entertain and learn to be by themselves, often before peers that have siblings. At least my daughter did.

That being said, your son has actually expressed fear with being by himself. That is a bit different than just personality. Something has scared him. Talk to him when you both are relaxed and doing something casual during the day. It could be that he is embarassed by what scares him and he may think you'll laugh or make fun of him. Or maybe it's something that he thinks you'll get mad about. Either case reassure him you won't laugh or be angry--you are trying to understand his problem and fear so that maybe you can help. Only by communicating will you and he be able to come up with a plan that will help him with his fear and also help him learn to be more independent. Good luck!

Mel - posted on 12/09/2012

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Bedtime fears — of the dark, monsters under the bed, and sleeping alone — are common at this age. These are the years when your child's powers of imagination are exploding, which means that now he can imagine new and scary things to be afraid of. A good portion of his day is spent immersed in fantasy play, in the company of dragons and dinosaurs and bad guys. At bedtime it can be hard for him to shut off his imagination and go to sleep. Even familiar things that have never been scary before, like his darkened bedroom, suddenly seem frightening against the backdrop of what he's been conjuring up all day. And since your child is still learning to distinguish fantasy from reality, the possibility of an invisible creature under his bed seems quite real to him.

"Nighttime fear — of the dark, of separation from parents, of noises, and of bad people doing bodily harm — is a normal developmental stage that goes on much longer than parents expect, starting at around age 2 and going up until age 8 or 9," says Patricia Sheets, a professor of counseling education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In addition to having a more vivid imagination, your child is also beginning to grasp that there are things in the world that can hurt them. Your job over the next ten years or so will be to help your child understand the difference between a real danger (accepting a ride from a stranger) and something that just feels like one (the "witch" in the space between the wall and his bed).

What can I do to help my child get over his night fears?

You may not be able to help him completely resolve his fears right now (since it's mostly a stage he'll have to grow out of), but there's a lot you can do to help him cope with his fears and get to sleep more easily. In the hours before bed, prime your child with happy, non-violent stories or videos (you've undoubtedly noticed how dark some fairy tales and animated movies can be). At bedtime, establish a peaceful routine that you can practice every night — for example, a warm bath, a gentle story, a quiet song, and a few minutes of silent vigil with you sitting by his bed. (For a list of storybooks about kids dealing with bedtime fears, check out the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh site, or see which bedtime books other BabyCenter members recommend. One personal favorite to add to your list: Bedtime for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban.)

The lulling sameness of a bedtime ritual serves as a talisman of sorts, warding off evildoers and bad thoughts and easing the transition from wide-awake to sound asleep. A night-light or two may also make your child feel more secure. Leaving the bedroom door ajar, playing story tapes or lullabies, and encouraging your child to sleep with a beloved toy or blanket may help, too. If your child has a sibling or even a pet, letting them bunk together can make nighttime fears vanish as suddenly as they appeared.
If your child is afraid of being alone and is comforted only by contact with you, consider offering up a virtual you, in the form of a two-way baby monitor. These newer models allow your child to talk into the monitor and hear you talk back, reassuring him that you're still there even when you're out of sight. Granted, this privilege may be easily abused, and its constant use can get tedious. But it could be a way to keep a nervous child in his bed while you get to be somewhere else, and the novelty of overuse should wear off within a few nights, at which point the mere presence of the monitor on your child's nightstand may be comfort enough. And, by the way, if you don't mind having your child sleep with you for a while, until his nighttime fears subside and he's off to another developmental challenge, don't worry about doing it. As long as everyone's happy and rested, this is time well spent.

Amanda - posted on 08/04/2010

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I don't believe it has anything to do with the fact that he's an only child. My three year old is an only child and there are times she seems to prefer being by herself in a room as long as she's got something to interest her. Then whenever she is done being by herself, she'll come back to where everyone else is and join in. So I wouldn't worry mom, could just be one of the many aspects of his personality.

Joanne Marie - posted on 03/26/2013

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what I think it is just that she's scared they something or someone is going to attack her trust me I was like that when I was that age

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Patricia - posted on 12/04/2012

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My Daughter is the total opposite. She has always liked to be alone. Even more so now that she is 10. She can spend the entire day from morning til bedtime in her room with the door shut.



I think it is just personality more than being an only child.

Sophia Marie - posted on 11/11/2012

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dont think so... thats just me my sons were 9 years apart.. and he love playing and being by himself.. he also enjoy another children too. I have 3 boys and have have teach then each to play by themselves... you know this is what hurting lots of kids... they dont or cant enjoy being with themselves. so they will be with and do things to fix in...

Gabrielle - posted on 10/16/2012

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My only child almost never says she's afraid of being alone. Sometimes she will get clingy and say she wants to be with someone. But she's not afraid to go to bed, or play alone in her room. I don't think it's an "only" thing, I think it's just a quirk of your child. Maybe you can talk to your pediatrician about it and see if s/he has any suggestions.

Shanna - posted on 10/15/2012

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Wow, this describes my five year old to a T! She also cannot say what she is afraid of and hates being alone even in her room even if I am just across the hall. She is also an only child.

Julie - posted on 10/12/2012

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I wasn't an only child, and I don't like being alone most of the time (especially at night) even today, so I think it's just a normal thing for some people. I don't really have a specific reason other than watching too many "Unsolved Mysteries" or hearing those scary stories as a kid from my friends. Even though we'd laugh off the ghost stories, there was a part of my active imagination that just wouldn't let it go...and that part would go wild when I was alone at night, and walla! Scared silly! He might, like me, not exactly grow out of it, but be able to function through it. Encourage him to talk through his fears with you, love and support him, and help him face them as best you can. Best of luck to you!

Laura - posted on 10/07/2012

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Candy- why so angry? She was asking a question. Isn't that what this forum is for???? Anyway... I have 2 girls, 8 & 10 that have seperate rooms and are often afraid to be alone at night. The 10 year old doesn't like to be alone upstairs any time of day. They tried sharing a room, but fought too much, so decided on seperate rooms. I can't figure out what to do!

User - posted on 07/16/2012

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Actually Dixie, I think your question is a fair one, I don't think you are generalising, merely wondering if other only children go through this. And of course, children with siblings may go through the same thing, but your concern comes from the fact that he is an only. This is an old post so I am guessing your son may have grown out of this by now. My son loves his room, I let him keep it pretty much the way he wants it (within reason). But I let him view it as his domain, and I wonder if this might help. Let him see it as his little piece of real estate, he can then take ownership of it and hopefully this will diminish his concerns if this is still an issue.

Candy - posted on 07/11/2012

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Dixie, please stop generalizing. Do all kids with siblings act the same?



Just because your son is afraid of being alone does NOT mean that EVERY only child does not like being alone. I thought the stupid stereotypes claimed that "ALL" only children like being alone and are loners. Well, obviously, your son is a contradiction to that. Some only children fear being alone and some only children do not. This applies to any child, regardless of siblings.

User - posted on 05/03/2012

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Hi dixie

My situation is very similar to yours (without and diagnosis! I feel very frustrated and end up shouting as I fell that nothing I do helps this situation! We have tried a herbalist but that doesn't seem to have helped..... We are waiting for a referral from the gp now to see if that can help...... My daughter won't even shower upstairs on her own.....I even have to sit upstairs every evening til she goes to sleep, this can take some time! How have you managed to stay calm and keep your sanity? Have you found anything that has helped? How is your son going into school? My daughter has to be almost forced in on a daily basis.

Thanks
Ruth x

User - posted on 04/25/2012

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My 9 year old is the same over the past year, with the soft toys and everything. And I can't go to bed until he is asleep (and sometimes it takes him ages to get to sleep) he also wakes alot when I get into bed, despite creeping about as to not wake him. He then completely freaks out that I am getting into bed and he is awake. I feel at my wits end and often find myself shouting at him quite a bit as he is unresonable and goes on until I agree to stay up. So I feel your pain, unfortunately I cant offer any advise as stuck myself. But you are not alone :-(

Dixie - posted on 11/17/2011

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My son is now 11-years old. He still has the same fears. In fact, it appears sometimes to be getting worse. He now wants to sleep with the overhead light on. A night light no longer effective for him. He wakes several times in the night to go to use the bathroom and insists that his father or I accompany him then put him back to bed. He continues to run from a room when nobody else is in it with him, even in the daytime. He has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, but as far as I know there is no connection of that diagnosis to his fears.

Patricia - posted on 11/17/2011

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Hi Dixie my name is Patricia Ongaro and I just googled a problem my son is having and I found u. I see that ur son has the same issues my 9 year old son is having, so I was wondering if your child was ever diagnosed with something or if he just outgrew his situation. Can you please help me?

Shannon - posted on 12/30/2010

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My son is 7 and doesn't like to be alone too often. It was worse when he was younger, but it's gotten a bit better. He used to tell me he was afraid of a monster that was in his room, so we thought about the monster and of a way to make him look silly rather than scary. He drew a picture of the silly monster and it still hangs on his wall.
Another thing I did was let him pick out some posters and decor to help make it more of "his" room rather than just another room in the house. That has helped some.
He also has a book light that he uses at night under the covers to help him feel better. He went from not sleeping in his room at all to sleeping there and getting up a few times at night.
I have found that if he is in the room and is busy doing something like a puzzle or legos he tends to be more apt to stay there. Having music on in the background has helped, too.
My biggest suggestion would be to see if there's someone he can talk to about it, like an uncle or cousin close to his age. Something is bothering him and it may be a good way to find out.
Good luck!

Le-Anne - posted on 12/22/2010

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I have an 11 year old son who is fine but my 9yr old he sleeps in anyones bed who will let him, he is petrified to go into any room by himself or sleep in his own bed. Does not go to the toilet for the whole day at school as he is scared. He tells me he is scared of wizards and witches, he knows these are mythical, but is still scared. His fears are starting to rub off on my 5 and 3 yr olds, which is sad, but the 3 and 5 year old do still go into rooms by them self. but wont go to the toilet by themselves. I have given up my master bedroom so my 4 sons can sleep in the same room, to make my 9yr old feel more at ease but he is still afraid of being in there on his own. The weird part is he is happy to go into any room with my 3yr old, so if there is a 'witch' there my 3 yr old wont be able to do much. Im so glad to hear im not alone, i have my son booked in to see a specialist in Feb, so hopefully i can get some help for him.

Antonia - posted on 08/13/2010

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my 7yr old son is abit the same...he does not like sleeping by himself.for him it came from have several nitemares.we usually talk about the dreams and try to figure out why this happen ,but first i always tell him to pray...

Tina - posted on 08/13/2010

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I have a 10 year old daughter who is an only child and she doesn't like being in her room by herself at night. She said she is scared and sees and hears things. She has even gone as far as to say she sees people by her bed. We let her keep a light on all night and we keep the hallway light on as well. At first I thought she just wanted to sleep in our room but now I'm not so sure. She seems truly frightened and we do let her sleep in our room on the floor and she goes right to sleep. The nights she stays in her room she's up until way after midnight.

Dixie - posted on 08/13/2010

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It appears that being uncomfortable to be alone in a room, day or night, is not an only child issue, but might just be a phase. Thank you everyone for your comments and insights. They were all very helpful.

Annick - posted on 08/13/2010

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My 6 year old is the same way. He's an onlie who used to LOVE being on his own...never had a problem entertaining himself. For the past few months though he's scared to death of being in a room by himself, much less being 5 feet away from me. He HAS to be in the same room as me or he gets REALLY freaked out. Nothing scary has happened to him so I don't know what brought this on, and he won't tell me why he's scared.

Pamela - posted on 08/13/2010

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can't b related to only child status. i have an eight year old boy (only child, of course) and he couldn't care less about being in a room, his own, our living room, outside, by himself. yes, he misses having company at times, but i think that's a totally different issue. he isn't reluctant or afraid to be alone

Busisiwe - posted on 08/13/2010

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my little girl is 5 and most times she plays in the room by herself and it has never bothered by this because to its safer and she's out of trouble, but since ur little boy is afraid then maybe you should get worried.

Michelle - posted on 08/12/2010

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I'm an only & my 12YO daughter is, too. We both love our privacy & 'me time.' No fear of being alone.

Dorsha - posted on 08/12/2010

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I think maybe you should just sit with him, no distractions, and ask him "can you tell mommy why you don't like being in your room?" Like with my son, he thinks he is in trouble.. he yells no trouble mama! And starts kicking the door. And I noticed if I leave the door open, with a gate in the door, he is more content, because he can see whats going on.. and knows he isn't in trouble. And nightlight maybe. And umm like door closed can be like, you're in trouble, here is your time alone, and at sleep times, tuck him in and say I LOVE YOU see you in the morning/in a lil bit... and let him know its bed time and that way he KNOWS he isn't in trouble

[deleted account]

My 8 year old son is also not a big fan of being alone in his room. I encourage him to spent time in his room by reading on his bed, doing homework in his room, playing on computers, play boardgames,etc so he get used to his room. He still prefers to sleep with us in our bedroom and still come to us in the middle of the night on most nights.

Dionne - posted on 08/11/2010

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My son is 9 and has never had a problem being in a room by himself during the day. At night he's okay if a light is on or the tv. My son is afraid of the dark. Some of it has to do with what is seen on television so I make sure to try to monitor what he is viewing (news, tv shows, and movies). I've always rubbed my sons back when he lays down at night and when he's about to doze off I leave the room and he is fine. If he wakes up in the middle of the night then I will find him in my room but I always let him know that he is safe and I am right down the hall. You might also want to talk to a professional for some suggestions because his fear could turn into a phobia and affect his life greatly if not dealt with now. Or he could be co-dependent which would affect him since he would always want someone around no matter what and I don't think that's all that healthy. Even an only child needs to be comfortable being alone sometimes. Good luck!

Shannon - posted on 08/11/2010

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My daughter who just turned 9 is by herself at night. Reading The Bible and stories to her at night helps. She is doing great and it just started within the last 2 weeks. Maybe he needs to stay over night at a cousins house. After I was gone and she stayed over night at her cousins it helped greatly. We have never had a scared issue. I have always told her when I am not with you Jesus is always with you. I'm just in the other room. During the day she likes to be by herself watching tv or playing a wii game.

Jules - posted on 08/07/2010

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My 9yo son does the exact same thing. Not every night but he will usually reference a show on National geograpic referring to the animals on the show.

[deleted account]

My almost 5 year old is an only child and she's fine being alone. I can't say she prefers it, she'd much rather I play with her, but if I'm busy, she's content to play in her room or watch PBS in the living room on her own

Lyndsay - posted on 08/05/2010

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My 3 year old is an only child and he's not afraid of anything, lol. He actually really enjoys spending time by himself in his room.

Alisha - posted on 08/05/2010

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Aww how sweet that he loves his stuffed animals! Oh he doesn't like being in there alone during the day?

Dixie - posted on 08/05/2010

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He already sleeps with the light on. A night light wasn't good enough for him. And, much to my dismay, he insists on having approximately 15 stuffed animals in bed with him each night. Since it helps him sleep in his on bed at night, I don't fuss overly much about it. Fortunately, he does sleep in his own bed, and I don't have to struggle with him to go to bed most nights. It's during the awake times, when he's playing that he has the most trouble being alone.

Alisha - posted on 08/05/2010

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Aww how sweet. Tell him there's nothing to be afraid of and that your near him. Perhaps it's just a phase of him being afraid of being alone. Do you have a night light or a special stuffed animal you could give him?

Andreia - posted on 08/04/2010

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I have a daughter eight years. When she was younger, she played herself in her room upstairs in the house, but now she is no longer just want to play in the TV room which is near the kitchen where I am, brings all the toys to the downstairs.
She does not speak of fear, but she just says she wants to stay close to where I am.

Andreia - posted on 08/04/2010

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I have a daughter eight years. When she was younger, she played herself in her room upstairs in the house, but now she is no longer just want to play in the TV room which is near the kitchen where I am, brings all the toys to the downstairs.
She does not speak of fear, but she just says she wants to stay close to where I am.

Ilse - posted on 08/03/2010

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Well I don't know if it is a typical reaction, but my girl is 10 and she's doing the same thing. It 's even so that at night she wakes up and gets into bed with us. And when we ask her why she 's doing that, she only says she 's scared being on her own. We 'r still hoping she will be growing out of it!

Lisa - posted on 08/01/2010

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yea my son is 12 and there are still times he has to be in the same room with someone else and not by himself

Bethany - posted on 08/01/2010

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My son is 3 and an only child and loves playing in his room with the door shut all of the time. He prefers the door to be shut when he sleeps too. Now there are times when he doesn't want to go to his room to get things at night because he says he is scared, but won't tell me exactly what scares him. I don't know if he just can't explain it or if he really isn't sure exactly why he is scared. I am one of 6 siblings and we hated being left alone! we always had to go with eachother into rooms and places by ourselves. So in my experience it seems to be the total opposite.

[deleted account]

No, it is not typical of "onlies" any more than it is of children with siblings.

I have two kids 16 years apart in age. Our son moved out when our daughter was 5yo, so both have been "only children". Neither has ever had a problem being alone. In fact, they both prefer it.

Tracy - posted on 07/30/2010

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my little girl is very much the same. Not so much about being frightened but she doens't like being in a room on her own. Guess it's a little bit of insecurity. However, looking at others, this gives them a more confident character when they get older x

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