Young children can sometimes exhibit an excessive attachment to one parent, while shunning the other. No matter what you do as parents, the child always whines to go to only one parent and not the other.
Often this can be a very trying experience for either parent. The parent that the child is attached to may feel tired, and frustrated as the child hardly gives them any space . The shunned parent feels traumatized and starts questioning themselves if they are doing something wrong. So what do you do? Read on.
For both parents
- This type of behaviour is a normal part of development and with your help, it will go away
- The child seldom realizes what they are doing. They do not understand the pros and cons of paying attention to only one parent and not the other. It is not their fault.
For the parent who the child is attached to
- Remember, this is a normal phase in the development of your child and with your help, he will learn to feel comfortable with both parents
- You will feel like you have had absolutely no moment to breathe as your child has been next to you all day, often whining repeatedly for your attention
- No matter how much you get stressed, do not push the child away or shout at him.
- Do not berate her for clinging to you.
- Regularly, suggest opportunities for your child to spend time with your spouse. For example, if she has a favourite book have your spouse read it. However, do not force the issue.
- If you have another child, appeal to your attached child's sense of fairness - "Your sister would like to hold my hand for as long as you have. That is a fair request. Can you please hold your mother's hand while I let your sister hold my hand?"
- Find yourself a de-stressing activity or hobby to do, after your child has gone to bed or when he is napping
- Encourage your spouse to continue paying attention to the child, even if the child is unresponsive
- Make sure you discipline the child if they do something wrong. Often children tend to cling to the adult who they think will let them "get away with it"!
For the other parent
- Do not reconcile yourself to the situation. Do not stop trying. A child needs both parents, if they are available.
- Never ever tell your child that you will not love them if they do not spend time with you
- Be patient and persistent. Over time, you will also win them over
- Find the child's favourite activities and offer to do them with her. For example, if he likes racecars, grab a car or two and ask him to join you in a game. Even if he does not come, sit down and move the cars around a bit and pretend to play. He will slowly come to see what is going on. Even that is a start.
- Do not compare the child to another
- Do not make promises of buying her something if she spends time with you.