Your daughter is 15, but seems more like 50. She prefers reading a good book to hanging out with a friend, walking her dog to dancing at the prom, and curling up in her own bed to sleeping in a bean bag at a wild and crazy slumber party. At her age, you were up all night giggling with your girlfriends, or out in the afternoons riding bikes with the neighborhood kids. You wonder, worry, and find yourself labeling her a loner.
Despite the fact that it might not be your cup of tea, for some people, lots of time alone is okay. According to psychologist Anthony Storr, author of the book Solitude: A Return to Self, a child who craves isolation might just need some space to process the world around her. Or she might require uninterrupted blocks of time to nurture an active imagination. Or perhaps she just needs to sit under an oak tree alone and strengthen her bond with nature. Any way you look at it, she’s in good company. Talented artists such as Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling, and Michelangelo were all noted childhood loners.
Still feeling a little anxious? Even though your daughter’s penchant for alone-time may be perfectly normal, it never hurts to embark on a fact-finding mission to put your mind at ease. Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. suggests having a conversation about your concerns with your child and asking the following four questions to determine if her actions are a choice or a challenge.
- Do you spend time alone because you feel rejected or excluded by your classmates?
- Is anyone at school teasing you, or making cruel comments about you?
- Do you feel lonely or sad most of the time?
- Do you wish your life was any different than it is?
If she answers yes to any of the questions, avoiding social interaction may be the way she is coping with her pain. Offer support and discuss a plan for intervention, such as meetings with teachers and school administrators.
If, on the other hand, your daughter tells you that she enjoys her books, her dog and her own bed, and relishes time by herself, she may just be a rare bird who flies on the wings of solitude. We're all wired differently. Learn to enjoy her uniqueness. You may have a future Nobel Prize winner, artist, or best-selling author on your hands.