For the last four years I have been dating a man whose two children live with him most of the time. The daughter is 9 1/2 and the son is almost 12. We are planning on marrying but the children's excessive clinginess is causing me to hesitate. I thought when I first met them that their behavior was due to insecurity, since their Mom really didnt see them much and I thought they'd eventually outgrow it. But four years later, no matter where we are or who we're with they won't leave my fiance alone. They continually crawl all over him, sit on his lap, hang on him, touch him, stroke and pat him. My boyfriend is a very loving Dad and is always touching his children in an affectionate way. For example, if his daughter is sitting next to him in a restaurant he will continuously stroke her back, leg, head, etc. Though I think parental affection is very healthy, I'm wondering if too much of this is causing the clinginess in the kids. Even if he tries to ask them to please give him some space, two minutes later they're back at it. They almost have an uncontrollable need to be physically attached to him at all times! It's starting to make me feel uncomfortable and it surely makes it difficult for us to have any kind of adult interaction. So lately I have not been really keen on spending time with them since this behavior is getting tedious. Let me add that the kids seem to like me and they do this even when I'm not there so I dont think its a jealousy thing. What I need to know is if this is normal behavior for children of divorced parents and can I expect them to get over it? Right now I really can't see living full time with kids that act this way.
Left to their own devices it is likely this pattern will continue for a while, though adolescence will bring some changes. Their father needs some help in relation to his participation, and enabling, of this behavior. The anecdote you describe in the restaurant reveals very inappropriate behavior. It is clear he is inviting this sort of interaction, and it goes well beyond what would be viewed as a normal parent/child relatiopnship. Children of divorce do not require physically affectionate behavior beyond what would be the norm in any family. Hopefully the kids' father will be open to scrutiny of his interactions with the children and seek professional guidance. My sense is that he likely views refraining from what he is doing as somehow harming his children or rejecting them, but I am only speculating. Whatever the case, professional help is warranted.
Hi. I'm not a doctor, but what concerns me is that you say your boyfriend is "continually" being physically affectionate with his daughter. Now, this young girl is prepubescent...I'm wondering if that's appropriate. I don't mean to imply anything, but maybe both your boyfriend and his kids are getting the wrong message. Yes, parent/child affection is good and healthy, I agree....but as young people get older there's limits. It's not appropriate, I don't think, for a father to be that affectionate to his older kids (even though it's PROBABLY not of a sexual nature), or for the kids to be that affectionate. I would try talking to him about the issue and have him set some limits...that when you, or he want space or private time, YOU GET IT. No questions asked. I'm sure these young people are beginning to want the same thing. Also, what kind of message does it send as far as touching anyone at all? That's it OK to touch in ANY way no matter what the other person's wishes are?
I don't think touching sends the message that it's okay to touch in ANY way no matter what the persons wishes are, but I do agree that it seems a bit "much". Personally, the statement about him continuously stroking the daughter's back, leg, head, etc to me seems like the type of behavior that would go on between a boyfriend/girlfriend... and even then "continuously" seems a bit obsessive. What concerns me is a lack of respect of personal boundaries ("Even if he tries to ask them to please give him some space, two minutes later they're back at it"). Boundaries separate us from others physically and emotionally and are important for our mental and physical health, in addition to developing healthy relationships. There are some books out there on boundaries and boundary setting, even addressing children. Maybe one of these books will help your boyfriend to understand and be better at setting (and enforcing) personal boundaries. Are the children going to expect this type of "constant" affection from their boyfriend/girlfriend when they start dating? And when that happens, how is the father going to feel about it? And how would either child's boyfriend/girlfriend feel about watching the child get "continually stroked" by the father? I would ask the boyfriend these types of questions and help him to consider the consequences of his actions in the long run. Once in a while is understandable, but "continuously" seems a bit much. Personally, stroking a daughter's leg seems odd to me to begin with.
Thanks everyone who responded to my post. I have been feeling uncomfortable about this behavior for awhile and I thought maybe it was me(was I jealous of the attention given to his children) but at least now I know I'm not being unreasonable. I am going to look for some books on the subject of boundaries and I'm also going to tell my fiance that we need some counselling before I think of moving forward in this relationship. It does seem kind of strange that they all constantly have to be pawing at each other and I do worry that the kids will grow up to be overly clingy to the people they have relationships with in the future.
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