Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clingy daughter

Questioner: Marie

Subject: clingy daughter

Question: My daughter is 5 years old and has always always been extremely clingy to me. She is fine at school, no problems going in or going to friends houses but especially when she is tired she depends on me. The main problems are me going to work, she cries hysterically, and bath time/bedtime, it has to be me,not even her dad, to the extent of me not going out in the evening, ever. Should I take steps to draw back or wait until she grows out of it?

Answer: Dear Marie;

Sounds like your daughter is experiencing anxiety and if this is the case she probably will not grow out of it as much as she will learn to hide it. Not something you really want her to do, rather than dealing with it. Here is how you can support her.

I have several suggestions.

1. There are two books I highly recommend (do a google search and you will find them both). The highly sensitive child and the sensitive child both are by different authors. The second book goes into the many different ways in which children are sensitive and the first gives some practical advice for dealing with sensitive children.

2. Children are often subject to strict schedules because we as parents have to work and juggle our lives and theirs as well. While schedules are necessary to function they are not necessarily the best support for children.

Children respond to routines. Routines are all about processes. When this happens what happens next.

I strongly suggest you look at your routines around separations. Start with bedtime as that one is the easiest to change.

Get a routine. (check out some of my previous answers about bedtimes). Slow things down in the house, turn off the TVs, radios and computers about an hour before bedtime. Then establish some together time, read stories, bath time, and then finish up with a nighttime massage (she is five and if she is not use to getting a massage you may want to start with a foot and hand rub then gradually move her to a full body massage). Who doesn't want to sleep after a great massage!

Make sure you and dad are doing this together at the same time and then one of you do the foot rub and one of you do the hand massage. Share it but be present at the same time. Eventually you can pull back and she will spend more one on one time with dad which I am sure will increase their relationship as well.

AFTER this tackle the going to work separation. Observe yourself and see what types of routines you have established with her when you leave. You will probably be surprised. often times parents will placate and come back several times before ending the discussion. I use to suggest parents tell the child what time they will be back and show them on a clock. Give them a hug, a kiss good bye and then do not hesitate, LEAVE. No child cries forever or all day long. It just doesn't happen. If you develop a good routine she will learn to know what is coming next and routines are great for lessening anxiety when they are consistent.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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Comment: your answer really helped, I'm going to read the books as soon as possible. Also liked the idea of Dad joining in with bedtime routine. Thank you very much