Feeling Clingy

Over the summertime, my son started becoming extra clingy.  I would be in the next room, and he would call out to make sure that I was still there.  He wouldn’t go to his dad’s house without a fight because he didn’t want to leave me.  He was constantly worried that I was going to abandon him, or that I might die.  So I wrote an article about it, and got a lot of feedback from other parents that were going through the same thing.  And it appeared that it was going on with kids around the same age as my son. 

Here’s one comment in particular:

My 8 year old daughter seems to be going through this. There was no event that seemed to have caused it aside from turning 8. She refuses to go to her dad’s house, and hasn’t been able to have a sleep over. She has tantrums about going to her father’s a week in advance. She constantly asks to sleep in my bed. She can’t be on the second floor of the house without someone else being there unless she is somehow preoccupied. It’s hard to help her cope because I feel suffocated. I’d love to hear some advice.
by Kim

It appears that this really is just an age thing.  Maybe this is the age that they suddenly become more aware of the world around them and realize that things aren’t always safe.  That can be a scary thing for a kid to become aware of.  It seems like they magnify the negative parts of the world that they are not only worried about their own safety, they are worried about the safety of their parents.  For kids of a single parent, they worry about what will happen to their main parent if they leave them.  My son has actually said this to me, that he is afraid that I might die while he’s not with me.  So it makes him nervous to go to his dad’s house.  And he is also afraid that I might have left him if I’m not right around him.  He’s 9 now, and he still does the periodic check ins to make sure I’m still in the house.  But it has definitely decreased since I wrote this blog.  And while he will call me about 5 times on average when he’s at his dad’s house, he now feels comfortable going.

My advice for Kim?  Humor your daughter and let her do her check-ins.  If visits with her dad are too much for her, maybe decrease some of the overnights, or stick around (if you and your ex get along) for a little while before leaving.  Let her call you as much as she wants at first, and then start setting appointments for when she can call you so that you are sure to be available for her when she calls, and are still able to enjoy your kid-free time.  For nighttime, maybe set up one night a week that she can sleep with you so she has something to look forward to.  Give her a night light if she doesn’t have one, and maybe a “lovey” – a special stuffed animal to keep her safe.  Reward her when she has slept in her own bed at night.  I know it’s suffocating, but this really is just a phase.  And the safer she feels, the faster she will move through this phase…and then move onto another phase that is equally frustrating. 

Thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Feeling Clingy”

  1. OMG! I almost cried when I read this! My 8 year old son is going through this and I was so worried something was really wrong. I have 2 other older sons, who did not go through this, at least to any degree that I remember it. My husband and I have been separated for 7 years and are now divorcing. After telling our boys, the youngest(8) started refusing to go to dads house! Temper tantrums, tummy aches, hysterical crying, everything and he use to love going to dads house! Now he wants to sleep with me, he wants me to go with him in the other room (even if his brother is there), and he even wants me to stand by the open bathroom door when he goes at night. He use to be very outgoing with no fear, and now he seems so different.
    Now for a question: since he is refusing to go to dads do I make him? His dad thinks he is doing this for attention and wants me to just make him go. I am torn! Help!

  2. Don’t worry, they do grow out of it!!! My son is 10 now and is much more secure in being away from me.

    Best thing you can do is to honor his feelings. Maybe encourage him to do day trips with his dad and spend the night at your house? It might suck for your free time temporarily, but it will help him to trust more and eventually graduate to overnights again. It is possible it’s an attention thing, but more than that he’s probably trying to execute some control in a situation that is out of his control. Maybe if he sees he has some say-so, he’ll be ok with staying with his dad again.

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