10 year old and dependence issues - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 12:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone. I need some perspective and ideas here. My DD is 10 now. She has always been a "high-need" kiddo, always complex, wonderfully sensitive and bright, but oh so challenging at times to meet her ever deepening needs. For a while she was just fine, but trouble started a couple of weeks before turning 10. She was crying every night because she was "that much closer to dying and losing us (me and dh) because life is just passing so fast and soon she'll be grown up and and and......."
We got through that, but now she is still oh so clingy, esp. at night. In fact, "it" starts in late afternoon as the day's activities start to wind down. OH, we homeschool btw, so we have a lot of quality time together and with her two younger brothers.
She starts with feeling tired, (although if the mood strikes her even with such "fatigue" she can still go outside and jump on the trampoline just fine), then inevitably something hurts and she reportedly has gas, or just feels yuck in her stomach. I'm thinking it is psychosomatic because she checks out just fine at the doc's.
Many times by nighttime she is teary, not wanting to "say goodbye" in order to go to bed, and would much prefer to sleep with us. Our 4 year old still does, but she at least sleeps in the same room with her 7 year old brother so no one has to be alone. We can't sleep with everyone piled in the room with us. Tried it, didn't work. She would also prefer me to lie down with her until she fell asleep, which I used to do when she was younger.
So, first I want to know if anyone has experienced an age regression with older kids on the brink of puberty? I guess it makes sense. Disturbing and hard to deal with at times, but understandable.
AND THEN...what did you do about it?
I wasn't sure if this should be on the pre-teen/teen forum, but at 10 she is still very much a little girl.
Thanks in advance. I'm needing some heeeeeelllllp!

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#2 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 03:53 AM
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Sounds just like me at that age. My parents even sent me to counseling but never really figured it out, I feel that way even now sometimes.
I dont know what would help though.
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#3 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 09:17 AM
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I don't have children that have gone through puberty, but have witnessed a few relatives go through it and of course, I did as well

Puberty can certainly be part of this, but I also think this age is kind of tough; you aren't really a teenager and aren't a young child anymore. When kids feel insecure, for whatever reason, they seem to regress for a period of time until they work it out. Children regress to behaviors that worked for them in the past even though they may not work in the current situation. I also sense that your dd is getting an awareness of the "unknown" of getting older except for the inevitability of death. There is much to experience in between, of course.

What always seems to help my dc's is to find story books that relate to the age/issue at hand. A good librarian might be able to guide you. I also help my dc's transition by focusing on what is coming up next. For example, school is getting out soon so we've been talking about what we are doing this summer. When school is going to start, we will talk about that. Breaking a large period of time down into more manageable pieces seems to help them to not get carried away in their minds, if that makes sense. Just my two cents.

I'd also ask you if something "big" is going on in your family or with someone else that she knows. Big doesn't necessarily have to be a negative something, but sometimes a change of any sort can throw a child off -- especially a child that is sensitive in general.

For now, if it were me, I'd lie with her until she falls asleep to give her the added reassurance and comfort that you are there for her.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#4 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 09:52 AM
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Sounds exactly like my oldest. She wasn't as worried aobut getting older, death etc, but she would manifest things to get emotional about. This was when she was 10. Suprise suprise she got her first period a few months later. She is now 11 and things have gotten much better although we still go through it as this is how her PMS symptoms display. What helped for us was to have a lot of rituals especially around bedtime. At the time it looked like this would be a good time for her to gain some independece around bedtime, but it was the exact opposite. It seemed strange to be putting someone your height to bed but she really needed it. We pushed back bedtime earlier to stave off the exhaustion tears. I would come to her room last to say goodnight and we would stay up reading or talking or both. It was a great connection and I am thrilled when she now asks for a little extra time at bed.
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#5 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 06:25 PM
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What I am hearing is that the clingy behavior is an attempt to cope with some scary feelings. Rather than focusing on whether to indulge or discourage the behavior, I would work on the feelings.

Sounds like she is worried that life is, or is about to start, going by so fast she can't appreciate it. As her mind matures, she is able to remember farther back, and the distance between her 9th and 10th birthdays may seem much shorter than the distance between her 8th and 9th. She is better able to understand the sad things in life and may have a hard time distracting herself from them. As each day draws to a close, she's realizing that that particular day is gone forever; whatever the number of days in her life, there's one LESS still available to do all the things she wants to do.

Look for some ways for her to immortalize things she does. Does she have a diary? a camera? a scrapbook or memory box? Talk up how wonderful it will be all the rest of her life to look back at what she did when she was 10 and all the other exciting ages she's going to be. Look back at old photos and talk about how she's grown and how cool it is.

Talk about when you were 10 and show her whatever memoribilia you have. Explain how it's simultaneously fun to look back and admire who you were, and pleasing to see how you've grown and improved each year. Every age has its highlights. (Make sure she doesn't hear you fretting about gray hairs or other signs of aging.)

Find an important responsibility to keep her busy at the time of day when she tends to go into a slump. Is it possible she has low blood sugar in the late afternoon? Maybe she could help you make dinner and snack on stray veggies and things while working.

A book I loved at that age is Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume. It's about a very imaginative 10-year-old girl who has many things to worry about but deals with some of them by imagining herself as the brave heroine in elaborate scenes. I'd recommend this as a book to read aloud to your daughter and talk about, rather than for her to read alone, because it has a lot of scary ideas in it but they could be great discussion starters. Another good book in that vein is The Lilith Summer by Hadley Irwin, about a girl and an old lady discovering they have more in common than they thought.

Find a regular time when you can talk with her alone and really listen to what's on her mind. She'd like that to be at bedtime, but if that doesn't work for you maybe taking a walk together every evening would help to clear her mind before she lies down to go to sleep. It sounds like she needs some extra support and companionship sometime between late afternoon and falling asleep.

Now that I have some perspective on myself at that age and have been working with Girl Scouts that age, I am kind of annoyed that adults seem to attribute all emotional issues to puberty. I don't mean to pick on you or to say that hormones have NO role in this, but please remember: The brains of both girls and boys change around 11 years old as they move from the concrete operational stage of development to the formal operational stage; this is not a part of puberty but happens on its own timetable. The way their thinking WORKS is changing at a very fundamental level. That can make their old perceptions of things seem frighteningly naive and their newly grasped reality seem distressingly complex and perilous. They clearly remember being the Me of two years ago, but at the same time that Me seems like a different person, not just smaller and less experienced but fundamentally different. Some kids feel that transition as it's happening and are afraid to lose the old Me because they can't yet feel the new one.

On that note, one more idea: Try to celebrate every new skill your daughter learns. That should help to make growing up a more positive thing. If you or other adults have time to play games with her (without younger brothers), try some games that use more complex reasoning, like Zendo, Set, or Mastermind.

I hope things get happier for both of you!

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#6 of 6 Old 05-21-2008, 07:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Everyone has been so helpful. I have read all your posts, and will go back and read them again a few times. I think it is so easy to get busy in all the things we do, although good things, and still miss aspects of life that are right in our faces. This is exactly what I was hoping to receive from everyone, a step back and some new thoughts outside the box of my daily routine. I felt like I was slipping into a black/white mentality of:

"Is this normal or abnormal".
"If it is abnormal, how do I fix it?"
"Should I lie down with her to go to sleep or make her fall asleep on her own?"

I knew I needed the blow the box apart and consider many more options in my perspective and/or action, but I wasn't able to do that on my own, so thank you all so much.

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