Category Archives: Kid Issues

Clinginess in 8 year olds

My darling son and me
My darling son and me

“Mom? Mom?!?” my 8 year old son called from downstairs.

“I’m right here,” I called from my computer.

“Ok,” he said.

It was his usual check in. He just needed to make sure that I was still in the house and hadn’t snuck off and abandoned him. And in 10 minutes, he would do it again.

Why the sudden worry? I’m not sure. I’ve heard it’s a phase that kids go through around 7 or 8. I don’t think I ever remember my daughter going through this, but she has always been incredibly independent. But other moms I’ve talked to have been able to commiserate their sudden lack of freedom due to a clingy kid. One mom told me how her son makes her hold his hand while she’s driving and he’s in the backseat. She is forced to drive with one hand on the wheel and the other stretched all the way behind her just so that he is assured.

It’s weird how sudden this all happened. It started out that my son could not be on the 2nd floor of the house without someone else with him. I chalked it up to just regular kid fear, like fear of ghosts or lurking monsters. I forced his sister to keep her mouth shut every time she had some snarky remark about his fears, and I accompanied him upstairs whenever he needed to be up there. It was all normal enough.

But then came the fear about sleeping over at someone else’s house. He stayed at one of his best friend’s houses for a sleepover, and got so nervous that he got physically ill all over the carpet, his sleeping bag, his PJs….. I had to pick him up at midnight that night and bring him home. The experience just made things worse. He now refuses to spend the night anywhere else away from home, except for his dad’s house. He wouldn’t even spend the night at his friend’s house right next door.

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Speaking of his dad’s house, he has suddenly started to include that in his fears about spending the night away. His fears now are that if he is away from me, something bad will happen to me, and he will never see me again. Or he’s afraid that I will drop him off and never pick him up again. He works himself up into such a fit that he gets a stomach ache, and starts crying. I have allowed him to stay home with me on occasion instead of going to his dad’s. But this last weekend I put my foot down and made coaxed him to go. It’s a Catch-22. I don’t want him to feel like he can’t make the choice about whose house he stays at by forcing him to go. But I also don’t want his fears to be fed so that he can’t learn to conquer them. And let’s get real, I need the break every now and then to regroup, just as much as he needs to be spending time with his father. Now when he stays with his dad, he will call me up to 7 times over 36 hours.

Does anyone else have a suddenly clingy child? How do you handle this?

Sometimes clinginess is a symptom of something bigger – Separation Anxiety Disorder.  I found a site that had more to say on this subject:

Who is affected by separation anxiety disorder?

All children and adolescents experience some anxiety. It is a normal part of growing up. However, when worries and fears are developmentally inappropriate concerning separation from home or family, separation anxiety disorder may be present. Reports indicate that SAD occurs equally in males and females. The first symptoms of SAD usually appear around the third or fourth grade. Typically, the onset of symptoms occurs following a break from school such as Christmas holidays or an extended illness. It is estimated that about 4 percent of younger children have SAD, while the estimate for adolescents is slightly lower. Children of parents with an anxiety disorder are more likely to have an anxiety disorder.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety disorder?

The following are the most common signs of SAD. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • refusal to sleep alone
  • repeated nightmares with a theme of separation
  • excessive distress when separation from home or family occurs or is anticipated
  • excessive worry about the safety of a family member
  • excessive worry about getting lost from family
  • refusing to go to school
  • fearful and reluctant to be alone
  • frequent stomach aches, headaches, or other physical complaints
  • muscle aches or tension
  • excessive worry about safety of self 
  • excessive worry about or when sleeping away from home
  • excessive “clinginess,” even when at home
  • symptoms of panic and/or temper tantrums at times of separation from parents or caregivers

The symptoms of separation anxiety disorder may resemble other conditions or psychiatric problems. Always consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis.*

*quoted from University of Virginia Health System

Are any other moms experiencing a sudden clingy change in their kids of this age? Join the discussion on SantaRosaMom.com.

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