Single Father Needs Help

I'm a single father to my 7 (almost 8) year old son. He has tons of anxiety issues and is nervous everywhere we go. I feel like he's getting older now, and he should be growing out of this. On top of that, he's incredibly clingy. I'm not a very physical person; I don't like to snuggle and I honestly can't stand it when he climbs all over me or hugs and kisses all over me. I know these things must sound terrible. = Anyway, his mom lives 3000 miles away and he only sees her a few months out of the year. It's completely up to me to raise him, of which I feel I'm very capable!, but I just don't think I'm meeting his 'affection' needs. I'm sure the proper advice here is for me to suck it up, drive on and get it done.. but I'm struggling. He's suffocating me a bit and I'm starting to lose my mind. He can never be left alone anywhere, even in our house. If I'm downstairs and he's on the main floor he sits at the top of the steps and actually times me. "Dad, you've been down there 3 minutes and 32 seconds, when are you coming up?" Drives me insane. He smothers me with I love yous and hugs and kisses, but after a while I just want to be alone.. which of course I can't because he starts to panic. He can't sit in the truck while I run in the store to grab him a drink, he freaks out. He's started chewing his nails and doing this arm flapping thing where he keeps his arms and wrists limp and just shakes them up and down when he's nervous. It honestly looks ridiculous. =P I'm sure I'm doing something wrong, but certainly there's a solution other than holding his hand everywhere we go and cuddling him to sleep every night? I'm virulently opposed to cuddling, he's 4'4" and will be 8 in a few weeks, shouldn't we be past that? Please help, I need advice. I feel like I'm ruining him by not providing these things he is so desperately craving, but I just can't take it anymore. Some have told me to take him to a therapist but that's a pretty expensive solution.. I'm a disabled military vet and I don't make much. Thanks in advance. =

RJDoute RJDoute
9 Responses Dec 11, 2012

My 6 year old son has had separation anxiety his whole life and I've spent a lot of time the past two years teaching him to enjoy spending time on his own. A child with separation anxiety wants to feel like they are getting their way all the time, overcompensating for their feeling of not having control in their life by trying to control the people around them. If they can't get your positive attention, then they will do their damndest to get your negative attention. You have to show him that acting up for attention will mean he gets none of your attention.

I told him alone time is ok, I spent time alone playing a lot as a kid rather than demanding my parents' attention and that he needed to learn that too. I would give him a chunk of alone time on weekends at the start of the day, so I could sleep in a little bit. Then we'd have a great breakfast, have some quality time then he would have another chunk of alone time. I made it clear that if he tries to demand my attention during alone time, that it will just increase his time spent alone. I do not hesitate to shut my bedroom door and lock it. After a few tantrums outside my door he learned his negative methods of attention seeking just got him more of what he didn't want; no attention. And he learned to be confident and creative on his own, from all his alone time he reads through books like crazy, builds awesome lego creations and has gotten really talented at art.

And yea, an 8 year old boy demanding to be cuddled by his dad at age 8 sounds unhealthy. I still wrestle with my son occasionally and give him a kiss on the forehead and hug for good nights and good byes. Anything more than that seems awkwardly overdone to me.

BTW - 8 is too old to cuddle your boy IMO. My little girl is five and she goes to bed on her own already. When we're just kickin it watchin TV, sure, we do that. But not even half of th etime do we do that. Mainly we talk, play, watch tv. But I make sure that we also have separate time so that she won't feel any anxiety if I'm ever not around. So far it's worked out very well.

You need to break this asap! Now while there are different ways to deal with different things - these are my experiences, suggestions.....

1. Force him to leave you to attend to your duties by yourself. Explain it to him - by force I don't mean leave him home alone or chain him to the basement wall for extended periods of time. I mean, make it into a game. Mention how he is and that it's not necessarily healthy to be that way and he needs to be a "man" and independent.

2. Enroll him in some form of group activity. Soccer, basketball, golf, LAN tournaments, whatever, something. This will help him with having friends outside of you and him and your private environment. He will also see how others act, etc.

3. Try to setup a time where there 30 minutes of alone/free time where you guys read, like right after dinner or som'n. Like, you can both read in the same room, but no real interaction, etc.

4. Potentially seek some professional help if you can't resolve anything on your own.

5. Get it while it's early!! Once it gets advanced and progresses and the child is used to it the harder it will be to break it! Also, it's in his best interest to be autonomous for his own sake in life. I've seen where this has made a kid and invalid in his adult years because he was so clingy and relied so heavily on the adult to just be there at every turn.

I have seen this in a fam members child as well and it's crazy. When the dad is gone, the child is constantly calling him. Like every 20 mins for nothing. The dad didn't do anything at first and then it became unbearable. Finally, after a couple "big guy" talks and a couple reprimands the child slowly was able to "ween" himself off.

Another scenario is that of a mother/son combo to which the mother just smooooothered that kid to no end. It's almost gross. In fact, when I was a kid I was the opposite. I din't want to be smothered at all! Didn't mind hugging my mom or dad, abut definitely wasn't trying to kick it hard with em lol.

I wish I had some of your problems man. My Dad was a war hero in some of the messiest ****. I miss my son, please for your child turn a new lief

Hi Ryan, message me whenever so we can discuss what's going on for your son. It's obvious that he is very attached to you and I'm just thinking that if we further explore his behaviour and his thoughts around it, then you will know why he is very attached to you. I know I'm pretty young, you're probably thinking what does she know about children to start with but you might be surprised. I'm curious to know what's going on with your son and just want to help.

No matter what it is our role as a single-parent to face a dual-role. While in a traditional sense our children have the male and female parent to provide all the support. I knew I had to compromise when I was there too. I think it is natural for most of us as children to want that huggy love bug stuff. I am not sure why it is uncomfortable for you. Please ask yourself why? Please don't feel guilty or burdoned by this. Go with the flow. Have a heart for him. Don't believe his not having his other parent in his life especially his mother does not hurt him. When our children are feeling insecure they may demonstrate a tendancy to be more needy and clingy. Please do not reject him during these times but rather help him to be comforted and reminded of your presence. From a mom who's been there. God bless and Merry Christmas!

Well Ryan,I have walked in your shoes. You may want to think about this. was the breakup harder for him or you. I raised four daughters by myself and I will tell you it was not easy. I was a man that needed to get this girl thing figured out and fast. I have one thing that may help you with dealing with his "clingy" Dad you have a boy that needs guidance and needs to feel secure. I dont know what went on with mom. but by his actions and needing you so close says something aint right.. fix it at all costs. another good piece of advise. never ever disparage his mother in front of him or allow anyone else to do so. and never ever use force with a child like spanking or whipping. I have learned so much from all my kids and I will tell you, that you too will see yourself in your kids as they get older and what a lesson your kids can can bring that will be exact as what you taught to them. Do you realize every time he wakes up he must wonder if you are gone too. his clingy holding on to your every move is just a scared little boy who needs to be touched. needs to know that he is protected and made to feel safe How lonely must that be. I am not coming down hard on you because I am not a huggy kissy kind of man. I like to sleep alone and have for many years. I have an arrangement that is good for me and good for my girlfriend. its called every other weekend.even now after all my girls have grown and have kids of their own. It makes me a proud man. and even prouder father. hang in there, your little man needs you so take time be a dad and not just a father. <br />

Can't you let your little boy know he's protected/loved without cuddling him to bed every night at eight years old? What about when he's 10? Is that still ok? And 12? 15? This is a dangerous area IMO. Also, I believe that every parent has a right to choose there method of rearing and saying something is dead wrong is, well, dead wrong lol. I spank, but because my child is so well mannered (I started at an early age) I don't ever have to spank her. Well I slapped her on her little booty once but that doesn't really count since it's only been once.

I'm 50 (in a few weeks), and have been raising my 11 year old son alone since before he was 1. He does need you, and it is hard My son is also afectionate to me and sometimes clingy. What he is really saying is thanks for being there for him. He is not aware of the depth of his own emotions. He doesn't realize that he is processing the fact that he has been essentially abandoned by his mother... I know... there are circumstances. My ex is crazy and an alcoholic, but bottom line is that she doesn't even take the opportunities that I give her to participate. her loss. Anyway... I'm guessing that may be one reason whey he is clingy... making sure he is holding on. but, really... I don't know. I've recently started going to a psychologist for my son and me. It is helpful, and I chose a woman as she can give my son a little of what he doesn't get from his mom. Mostly though, you have to provide it all. The loving, nurturing caring that a mom gives and the strict boundaries too. Don't forget that they need and want boundaries. This is where my biggest mistake was, and it is harder to establish them later.

Trust me, I know it can be frustrating when you have a million things to do and no time... but take the few seconds to stop in the moment to embrace your son and tell him that you love him. It will have a huge payoff. And once in a while, make the day all about him. What does he want!

awwee..sorry to hear tat.. Hope you can deal it. He needs you. ;(

I know this, and I'm doing the very best I can. I provide a good education, a safe home.. I'm retired so we spend all day every day together. I'm a member of the WatchDog program every Monday and Wednesday at his school, I'm very active in his life! He has extra curricular activities, he plays numerous sports.. I think I'm a good father.. I'm just severely lacking in the affection department. I need a solution before I do some permanent damage to him or something.. is that what I'm doing? Bleh, I have no clue but it's eating me up.

well, that's good then,you're a great dad.. I am not suppose to give you any advice though 'cause I am not a parent myself yet but I think, hope you won't be offended, the problem is with you.. like based on what you have said you are not a physical person . Your son need that, and base on Psychology, physical contact between parents and kids is a great one, it helps..something like that and you're son is not forever a toddler, when he's a grown-up already he can't hug and kiss you like he can today..