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Zoe Sinclair, founder of Parents Matter, which provides parenting events in the work place, responds to your queries

I have a lovely, well behaved and popular four year old son who hates having a babysitter and also dislikes staying round at a friend’s house. He gets terribly upset about both these things which invariably means I don’t get to go out or we have to cancel the playdate. He goes into school every day with no bother so I am unsure as to why he behaves like this?

The first thing I would say is that this is perfectly normal and that it is going to be conquered by perseverance. There are a number of routes to take to do this but the most important thing is to expect that it is going to happen. Doing this prepares you mentally for the tears and heartache that you see your son going through. The fact that he goes into school perfectly well is a good indicator that he is a well adjusted little boy. But when Mummy is around he doesn’t want you to go. This is perfectly natural.

To deal with the babysitter issue firstly. I would always tell a child that you are going out, whatever the circumstances. If they wake up when you are out, they will get more of a shock when they find you are not there. Many of us feel that our children never wake up in the night. here is always a first time and this could do more damage in the long term! It is worth setting up a few ‘hoax’ evening outs so that you can get your child used to it. I know this seems like a time consuming thing to do but some children take more time than others to get used to a babysitter.

Get your babysitter to come round during the day to meet your son and to play with him for a while. He will then recognise her when she comes in the evening. Depending on the time you go out, either you put your child to bed but make sure they say goodnight to the babysitter as well. Even if there is some screaming leave the house and perhaps stay away for half an hour or so, then come back. This will show your son that you don’t disappear and that you do definitely come back. This seems to be a child’s main fear coupled with it happening at night when children are tired, scared and vulnerable. Repeating this a few times will do the trick. Your son will then get used to the pattern and you will be able to stay out for longer.

With regards to going to friends’ houses to play – the same techniques apply. Initially you will have to stay at the playdates to give your child confidence but slowly you will be able to leave for a small amount of time until you can leave him there until its time to go home. These issues are very common and are best solved through practical techniques.

Regarding the babysitting issue, I have heard of parents getting into their pyjamas to show their children they have no intention of going anywhere but the minute they see their child is asleep, slipping into party wear and going out!! There are lots of options!


Should I be worried that my 7 year old daughter still sucks her thumb? How can it be stopped?

Parents are frequently uncomfortable with their children sucking their thumb. It can look ugly and babyish. However, in the main, thumb sucking begins from when they were babies and being a great source of comfort is difficult to give up. Most experts believe that you should wait until a child is ready to give up in order that it is an easy and successful transition.

Normally a child will decide themselves, most often because other children have teased them for looking babyish or silly. It is at this point that you can help your child. More often than not, children don’t realise they are sucking their thumbs. It is such an inbuilt habit that the thumb is raised quite without thinking.

The best thing to do is to adopt a reminding technique such as putting a plaster on the thumb that is sucked. As the thumb reaches the mouth, she will soon realise. Another technique is to limit the opportunities for thumb sucking. Let your child decide that thumb sucking is only allowed at bed time or only allowed in their bedroom. If it is their choice, it will be easier.

Giving up sucking their thumbs will not happen overnight. It can be a slow process and it is important to note that teasing or punishing your child for thumb sucking will only do detriment to their self esteem – far worse than them sucking their thumb for a week or so longer.

Get in contact to shed light on issues that are worrying you or you think you can help others with. Write to us at [email protected] and together we can have a go at putting the world to rights!