12-04-2020 09:50 AM
I'm a 42 year old single father of a 13 year old daughter. She's always been a very shy kid, never had friends and refused to try and seek contact to her peers. However, she's a brights student, reads a lot and has remarkable plans for her age ("definitely wants to do a PhD and work for National Geographic"). She never really seemed to mind not having friends and actually found it stressful when I pushed her to activities than when she stays home with her books and drawings. Our therapist said I should let her choose if she wants to make contact to others or not so I don't push her anymore even when it breaks my heart seeing her spending every day alone.
Lately, she started to seek a lot of affection from me and I'm not sure if it's normal for a 13 year old to behave this way towards her father. It started with panic attacks and run away atempts. During the panick attacks, I took her in my arms until she calmed down. It took a few minutes, but after that she wanted to stay in my arms for at least half an hour. Then, she started to "partly run away". She literally just ran away few meters behind the yard to the forest and waited for me to come. I sat down next to her and we talked and I also gave her a hug. As she again wanted to stay in my arms even after our talk I started to suspect she literally just runs away because she knows I will hug her afterwards.
I talked to our therapist, and she said, I should show her more affection during the day. So I did and the run aways stopped.
However, now she hugs me at least ten times a day and when we watch a movie she wants to be in my arms the whole time. I don't mind but I'm concerned. I also know that she told the therapist that "her biggest fear is that I'm disappointed in her because I would rather have a daughter that is just like all the other extroverted kids with lots of friends and that she doesn't feel good enough for me."
I didn't answer anything to that statement and that's the reason I'm writing in this forum. Because she's right. Well, I'm not disapointed in her but I would wish for her to have at least one friend. She on the other hand doesn't seem to mind being a loner, she's only worried I don't accept her this way.
I tell her so often that I'm proud of her, that I love her, that I'm here for her and I've never refused when she wanted to hug me. But I just don't understand her. I don't understand her wanting to be alone all the time (She talks to people, but is very shy and polite and doesn't pursue longterm friendships) and especially I don't understand her wanting so much physical affection from me.
I'd be thankful for some suggestions why she's behaving this way. Our therapist said she's not autistic, not an asperger, she's just this way.
My parenting style is something between authoritative and free range. We don't have any rules and she never gets punished (but she actually also never missbehaves). Her mom left us 12 years ago and we don't have any contact to her.
12-04-2020 12:41 PM
Thanks for posting on the forum, welcome!
It sounds like you and your daughter have a really lovely and close relationship. It's great to hear about all the ways that you support her, and good on her for having such wonderful goals!
It's tricky to say exactly why she has recently started wanted to be really affectionate with you, have you asked her about it? Maybe it could be an idea to ask her if there have been any changes for her, and ask about how the affection makes her feel?
Its really good that you've got such an open dialogue with her therapist, I would definitely recommend keeping this conversation open with them and letting them know of any changes or concerns you have. It's also totally within your right to get a second opinion if you wanted to. I'm wondering if you have any support for yourself? It's important to make sure you're able to look after yourself and get the support you deserve too @JeremySF
12-05-2020 01:33 AM
Hi @JeremySF ,
Welcome to our parenting forum. I've been coming here for a few months now after feeling cut off from my local friends and parenting connections due to covid isolation especially around school. I'm married with a 16 year old son and a 14 year old daughter.
There were a couple of points I wanted to respond to in your message.
Firstly, you mentioned that your daughter is an introvert and enjoys her own company and doesn't feel the need for friends. However, you would like her to develop some friendships and can see the benefits. This is something we've experienced in our immediate and extended families. I'm an extroverted extrovert and my husband is on the more ongoing side of introvert and is chatty, Has friends etc. However, his niece is an introverted introvert and her idea of the perfect 21st was to go away to a hotel by herself and read books. Our daughter is shy an introverted by nature and definitely recharges through time on her own, although she's very different with her friends and is very chatty, loud and comes across as a social butterfly.
We get on well most of the time, but there are times where I seek interaction and affection, a smile from her, but she's spent and needs to withdraw into her cave and it's really hurt. Fortunately, I also get this dynamic and my rational brain kicks in.
So in terms of trying to encourage her out of her shell and to interact more, I'd suggest really small steps. One suggestion would be getting involved with Scouts or Guides. Both our kids have been involved with Scouts and our son is now in Venturers and its been amazing and they met via zoom during covid lock down and they were amazing. They have so many different activities and go on camps etc which build confidence and social interaction and they also get the kids outdoors. Another option could be a book club for teens.
In terms of your daughter's increased affection and parallel attempts to runaway and have panic attacks, I wonder whether her mother's absence is a factor. Is this something you've readdressed with her as she's matured? Updated the explanation you gave her as a young child to something more suited to a teen? I have an acute health condition which has thankfully settle down a lot this year and is probably benefitting from social distancing and all the hand sanitising. We have found it necessary to update our conversation with the kids as they've gone through developmental stages. Your daughter is also facing puberty and it could well be a time where she might turn to her mother for advice and support, although my daughter didn't turn to me and I ever spoke to my mum either and now teens also have the Internet for better or worse. Meanwhile, you sounds like a wonderful Dad who is very emotionally connected to his daughter and you clearly love her dearly and try to understand her and the complexities our kids seem to have being their own people as well as being part of us. Maybe, she just needs some reassurance. That there are times when she really feels a sense of being rejected and unloved by her mother and it hurts, but it also sounds like she's pretty level headed and accepts the situation.
Lastly, you haven't mentioned whether she has wanted to connect with her mother or wants to keep that door shut. I know someone in their late 40s whose mother left as a child and she wants nothing to do with her. She left and was brought up by her Dad. That door is well and truly closed. However, she was very young when her mum left and maybe she just needs to know a bit more about her to fill in a few gaps and get to know herself better. That said, that's me the extrovert talking and I'm also a researcher and I don't leave a stone unturned. Your psychologist would be able to guide you about this. I just know from our own experience where Mummy dying is the elephant in the room we try not to acknowledge (indeed we make conscious efforts to shove it in the closet and close the door), that talking through things is ultimately beneficial and they're able to ask new questions to satisfy their new developmental stage.
I hope this helps, and perhaps someone else will respond who has a similar situation and can offer more informed advice,
Meanwhile, be proud of yourself and all the best,