My 12 y-o step son comes to me at intervals of 5-15 minutes wanting a hug. He has the same behavior with his dad. Here's a quick breakdown of the history. He was neglected and his 3 older sisters molested while my husband was deployed numerous times during his military career. My husband has custody of all four children. Their mom still has visitation. She had a good lawyer, wormed out of serious trouble with claims of ignorance. I have three children, and have custody. We have six who live with us. Their ages are 18, 16, 15, 14, 12, 11. My step-son, the 12 year old, has always been a very needy child. I had no idea how needy until we blended our families, and found that he wants to hug either dad or I, or sit on our laps, or sit cuddled up to us at pretty much all times. When he is told to do chores, he has to hug before he starts, and then hug after each task in a chore he completes successfully. Its not just a quick, arm-over-the-shoulder-squeeze, and then move on to work, but he has to have us envelop us, and he will squeeze and release and squeeze, and stand there or sit there and stay until one has to say, "OK, that's enough..." And I guess this behavior is one thing within his home family, but even the first time he met my sister, he just plopped into her lap, threw his arms around her, and had to hold her like that for 5 or 10 minutes. It is troubling at home too, because he isn't the only child here. We are trying to care for and maintain a home for 6 children, plus ourselves. But if we don't stop to hold him as along as he wants as often as he wants, then he gets all hurt and will even break down and cry about it. He's a great kid, a BIG kid-- he's almost 5'8" and he weighs a good 170lbs.--he's in great physical health. I can understand how he might react this way from the years of manipulation and neglect, but I want to help him to grow past this very young-child need for constant parental comforting and reassurance. It seems like he should have learned the self-comforting skill a long time ago. Any suggestions??
Well, a couple of things. Is hugging really a young child need? I would change that midset to be honest. I also would try to worry less about the time and inconvenience of it. You do have a lot of kids under one roof---- but most are older than him and your three didn't have the same abusive circumstances to deal with. So I hear that you are empathetic to him, go with that.
He may have an internal need for pressure as well. The nervous system can crave deep pressure (my son has sensory integration disorder and craves CRAVES this). How can you get that for him? What about a boxing bag? What about starting him in wrestling? Swimming can fulfill a deep pressure need. have him lay on the ground and push couch pillows onto him. Sound strange? It soothes the nervous system and is what they do in occupational therapy. If this was your little boy from the begining and he had these needs, you would do this now without a second thought because you would understand that his nervous system needs it to function well.
I don't know if that is going on but it could be. I think you can talk to him about who is appropriate to hug and who isn't. But with his history of neglect, you don't want to rebuff him. Has he had any counseling recently? It may help. Those past wounds can be very deep.
Thanks for being such a good mom to him. He sounds as if he desperately needs it.
In truth, all three of my children were physically abused by their dad. I divorced him after he made an attempt on my life that left me crippled for 4 months. I finally realized that he was dangerous, and I stopped trying to hide from the reality of what he had been doing to the kids. My youngest (11) seems to be autistic, but also suffers from brain damage his dad caused and has even been diagnosed with PTSD. One upside to this frequent-hugging our 12 y-o displays, has been that our 11y-o seems to be mimicking the behavior and now he wants to be hugged all the time too. That's a step in the right direction for him; before he didn't seem to care if anyone was around. I wouldn't be concerned so much about the 12 y-o except that it is beginning to be an issue with other boys his age, and they are making fun of him for wanting to be hugged/held all the time. It is draining on me, too. I sort of get to where I can't walk past him, or put a load of clothes in, or do the dishes or anything without having to stop, and stop, and stop, and stop to hug him, over and over. As for counseling, I tried to bring him to a (locally known) very good one. And he wouldn't talk to her, but he wanted to hug her, and have her hold him. She finally said that as nice a boy as he is, if he won't talk to her openly, there's really nothing she can do to help him.
The idea with the pressure, and couch cushions makes a lot of sense I guess. Our youngest, with the Aspberger's, when he is having one of his fits, if we hold him long and tightly, he'll settle down and be fine. The doctor told us this was a sort of nervous system reset for when he gets out of control. Perhaps our 12 y-o needs that same sort of thing, on a different level. It's worth a shot. I'll still welcome any other comments on this, as we really want to help him develop healthfully!!
Temple Grandin, a leading advocate for people with austism (she has autism herself) developed a thing called a "hug machine" or "squeeze machine". She built one for herself out of her her own need and now apparently they are available on the market or you can make one yourself.
My goodness, you have your hands full! I'm going to just call you a saint for handling it all. I'm sure there are days that you want to crawl into bed and never come out----- but we moms can't do that, can we?!
Well anyway, I was thinking maybe you could transition to some high fives instead of hugs. This is much easier to do----- on way past to do laundry, give a high five instead of a hug. Then maybe you could move to a thumbs up. Maybe you could set up a morning hello hug, a good night hug and a before school hug and after school hug and the rest of the time it is high fives or thumbs up. . . If he is getting deep pressure input from other sources, he may be okay with that. Those gestures reassure him as well.
Also, with my son----- we do occupational therapy. They did a program with him about people and appropriate actions. They seperated out certain people such as immediate family----- then they grouped aquaintences and regular classmates and friends and----- then they grouped strangers. They used actual pictures of such as illustration. It is okay to hug immediate family. We high five or thumbs up aquaintences. We say hello politely to strangers. Role play it. That way, he can be taught not to hug his buddies at school (so they don't make fun of him).
These are just thoughts. Try the deep pressure stuff in case he is craving that stimuli into his nervous system. Try swim lessons or wrestling. Good luck and I hope you get some rest!
I have an 11 year old son who hugs everyone, and he has neither been neglected or abused ever in his life. It drives me crazy, he hugs everyone, people he knows and sometimes people he doesn't know. He has ADHD and ODD, but he is not Autistic. He has seen several therapists over the years and a few "behavior specialist" pediatricians. NO ONE can explain this to me or help me deal with it. Does anyone have a suggestion?
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