When A Child Is Overly Attached To One Parent

What To Do When A Child Is Overly Attached To One Parent

It’s more of a rule than not that a child prefers one parent before the other in different parts of their lives. It’s difficult for both parents where a child wants only one of her parents. One parent is hurting and feels powerless to be rejected, and the other feels smothered and needs some time away. 

When a child is small, she prefers the parent who takes care of her the most, feeds, comforts, and soothes her. At about six months, separation anxiety develops, and she seeks the person she is most accustomed to and who means safety for her. People in this age preferred in a hierarchical order. Separation anxiety continues through to about two to two and a half years and peaks at around 18 months. It can continue even after, though, especially when a child’s hungry, tired or sad. The parents’ preference is changeable, and for older children, it’s dependable on their needs at that specific time.

It is not uncommon that moms are the favorite in the early years and change when the child becomes older and are more curious and wants to explore where many dads suit their current needs better.  

Feeling unwanted and not needed

Being rejected makes us very vulnerable, and that’s a very uncomfortable and undesirable feeling. We give all our love and only get rejection back. It’s easy to question yourself and how you’re doing as a parent. Feeling you’re not enough and powerlessness. You’re hurting, and when doing so, we’re more inclined to be angry or withdrawn. 

It’s important to remember that regardless of what you feel, this isn’t about you. You’re not doing it wrong. These times, think about how old the child is, who she is most accustomed to, and spends more hours with, what she is currently interested in, her wants and needs, and who reflects those interests best. 

If your child prefers the other parent, it’s easy to give in to the powerlessness buzzing through your mind and body, become angry and demanding or withdrawn, and easily giving up. Always remember that this is not about you.

When A Child Is Overly Attached To One Parent

How to deal with a child who always wants one parent

If your child is small and cries for the other parent due to separation anxiety, I’d say what to do depends on the situation. Just as one parent is rejected, the other parent often feels exhausted and smothered. When this is true, the preferred parent may need some time away. When she cries for the preferred parent, listen to her, acknowledge her want, and be there to comfort and soothe. It often takes her longer to calm her down, but as long as you’re present, gentle, and comforting, it’s okay. 

Listen, acknowledge and be present

It’s also perfectly fine for the preferred parent to be the one who comforts and puts the child to bed if there is strength for it. If so, the rejected parent can make a habit of being there and saying goodnight, hug, and comfort as well. This way, the child gets the comfort she needs and knows the other parent also always are available and loving.

For older children, the preferred parent will alter between different periods but also situations. For example, she might prefer one parent to go to the dentist and the other to play with.

If you feel rejected by an older child, try to find a common interest that you share or spend some time alone, only the two of you. 

It takes time

As painful and heartbreaking this can be, this will pass. It takes time, but it does pass, and it doesn’t set any long-lasting effects or marks on your relationship as long as you keep being gentle and present. A good idea is to learn more about mindful and intentional parenting to help you on your way.

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