My daughter is constantly seeking my attention!
Written by Dr Helen Wright on 31/08/2010
Q. My daughter is 7 years old. She is very caring and loving, but she seeks my attention constantly. She will not do an activity by herself, she has to be given everything and within minutes is asking me to assist her or will want my opinion. She constantly craves reassurance and hugs, listens to my conversations and then interrupts when I am talking to other adults and she gets upset if I have things organized and I have not informed her. Our relationship is deteriorating as I feel totally stressed with the pressure of her constant demands for attention and I am starting to respond unkindly and too truthfully. Please help.
A. Clinginess and separation anxiety in young children are very common, so do not feel alone! It can be so easy, however, to set up a negative feedback loop – she fears separation and is clingy, you are stressed, she interprets this as further separation … and so on. You need other people to help you to put this into perspective, and to help resolve your daughter’s behaviour; ultimately, she needs to learn to be independent of you if she is to lead a happy and satisfying life.
Turn to other people to help you. If your daughter has always exhibited this kind of behaviour, then it might be valuable for you to understand why. Were the events of her birth traumatic? Did she experience turbulence in her early years? Understanding this can often be the first step towards resolving the situation properly, and you might want to consider finding a child psychologist or counsellor who specialises in dealing with children (ask your daughter’s school if they can recommend anyone).
Adjust your expectations of what you can expect to do when you are with your daughter, and focus on spending time with her. While this may seem as if it might accentuate the problem, in fact if you are more relaxed and at ease, your daughter is far more likely to relax too and see time with you as ordinary rather than special, to be clung to at all costs. At the same time, ask other relatives and friends to help you by inviting her to do exciting (and normal!) things with them – the more that your daughter can build fulfilling relationships with other people, the better. This needs a concerted approach, so draw on all areas of support in your life to help you.