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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Clingy Child


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Ok so I need some help. DD is 14 will be 15 in the summer. Last October 24th, she got sick, very sick and was in ICU on a ventilator for 5 days. The doctors have no idea what was wrong, how she got it or if she will ever get it again. The problem is she is so clingy, and really nervous about everything from a headache to a runny nose. I understand that it must have been scary for her waking up and not remembering 5 days, but she is more clingy now than ever. I want to help her to feel more comfortable about things but I’m just not sure how to do it. How can I gently push her back into life but still let her know that I'm here if she needs me?

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Speaking as the parent of another (formerly) clingy child, I think it is a trait they are more or less born with. My daughter, up until very recently, was very clingy. She wasn't a shy child, just easily made anxious and, as a result, wanting to stay very close to Mom. We as parents want them to be self assured and confident and I know I get (shameful admission here) irritated and impatient with what seem to me to be her unreasonable fears. Fear isn't reasonable. It just is. The more I tried to "reason" with her, the clingier she got.


From my experience, only time and patience will do the trick. And hopefully nothing so frightening as 5 days unconscious in the hospital will happen again in the near future.


Her clinginess is normal, considering what happened. Let her set the pace for her activities and time away from home. She'll get past this with lots of support and understanding from those who love her.

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Can't remember if I need to knock knock so knock knock...!


Your daughter understandably is worried and went through a terrible experience but as you seem to be saying, she needs to try and put it behind her and get on with her life. Perhaps she enjoys the comfort and reassurance you give her and that's why she remains clingy. You should perhaps talk the whole experience through with your daughter (as I'm sure you have done previously) and decide together that it's time to move on now and not dwell on it any more. This would probably mean you stepping back by not offering as much comfort as you have done previously and 'weaning' her off the support you have given her. A sort of 'cruel to be kind' approach. I am sure you must also be concerned if she tells you of her symptoms but it would probably be best not to show her your fears and just give her a painkiller and little or no sympathy!


My daughter is only 3 so my experience is very different to yours but one example I can give you is when she's at her tumble tots class. She went through a period of about 2 months where she would constantly run over to me and wouldn't go back unless I took her and joined in for a while (having previously spent a few months in the class with no problems). Well after a few weeks I had enough and I started completely ignoring her, I took a book and read it, I didn't even look at her. She wasn't upset or anything but I still felt pretty guilty. Well she hardly joined in at all the first couple of weeks that I did that but now it seems to have done the trick and she's joining in without any problems. Hopefully she'll continue like that!


dazedandconfused and I posted at the same time and my suggestion is obviously completely different to hers! But that's what makes us all different. I'm sure you as the parent will decide what will work best in your situation. Good luck.

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Sounds like your child is, understandably, very anxious. Would you feel comfortable having her see a therapist? In my experience, this has many benefits:


1. You feel like you are doing something to help your child through a difficult time

2. Child has someone other than you to cling to

3. Child learns skills to defuse and cope with anxiety

4. YOU have someone to bounce your own frustrations and questions off of



As dazedandconfused said, some children are born more anxious than others. And I concur with her that reasoning does not help reduce a child's anxiety. From a parent's perspective, the best thing to do is to honor her feelings. But it can get REALLY tiring! (Been there, done that ...) It's just plain hard to stay patient all the time.

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Wow, that's a big thing for any kid to go through. Her behavior is completely normal given the circumstances. Has she kept up with her schooling and more importantly, her social network? I think her friends will probably be a good bet to ease her back into her former independent self. Little by little she'll develop more trust.


My dd became very clingy after our divorce. Everyone told me I was making a big mistake not pushing her away or letting her sleep with me on occasion (she was under 10). If the naysayers could only see her now. Each kid develops independence at their own pace. And when there's been a trauma (divorce, family death, seriuos illness), it's natural to lose some ground on the independence continuum. Hang in there and at least be comforted that she turns to you when she's feeling less secure instead of being too embarrassed because she's in her teens. In a way, that's a testament to your good mothering skills!

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Very good point Rhapsody. There are a NUMBER of places teenage girls could turn for comfort when they're feeling insecure, most of which would have consequences that no mother would love! (Speaking from experience here :yes: ).

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As a Vietnam Veteran, I can say that I'm with Treefrog on recommending some therapeutic assistance. The behavior sounds a lot like behaviors I've witnessed, even manifested myself, in persons who have been highly stressed. You opened with the right words: "Ok, so I need some help." You are absolutely correct. You must be congratulated for recognizing it. :yes: See if there is some counseling available for your daughter, and also for yourself, to help you to deal with this situation.

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I ditto Mel and Treefrog.


All of you have gone through a very traumatic experience and it sounds like you may need a bit of assistance to be back in the pink again.


It's wonderful that you are recognizing the concerns and wanting to address them.


All the best,



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Child/adolescent psychologist/balletmom here...call the hospital where she was treated to find the name of someone who might specialize in illness related anxiety. They might even have a kid's or family support group of folks who have gone through difficult medical situations. It's probably really hard that there was no definitive diagnosis to her problem or what you might do to prevent it. It leaves one feeling pretty powerless and only time and support will help her relax about it and allow herself to enjoy all the things she used to do.


I also wonder about the stress level for you...I can't imagine how I would cope with such an illness in my dd. Seeing a therapist together might give you a positive step to deal with the fallout from the illness as well as gain coping strategies for identifying and dealing with the waves of anxiety that are a natural outcome of such a traumatic event. If she is also showing signs of depression. know that a significant stressor can alter body chemistry and bring on depression that can also be compounded bythose wonderful teenage hormones. See a trusted MD to explore that if you think it is a possiblity.


In the meantime, keeping her dancing, strong and healthy will help counterbalance the fears. Best of luck to you both.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you, EllenDana, for bringing a health professional's perspective to this discussion. I'm always leery of advising in these matters, but you have, I think, fairly identified much that both mother and daughter may be suffering. I got help after Vietnam, now I'm giving help to people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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My non dancer has Aspergers, and one of the issues he faced for years was anxiety and stress when apart from mom/dad/sister. At the advice of a counselor, we got him a cell phone and a highly technical, fancy, beloved watch with alarm, and would tell him EXACTLY when we would be back. The trick then, was to NEVER miss being back on time. Once he got used to the detailed plans and arrival/departure information, he became much more relaxed. We would say, we'll drop you at 9:00, remain in the building until 9:10, run errands until 10:45, return to the building at 10:50 and be waiting at the door to the gym at 11:00 when you are released. He had the watch and the assurance, and it gave him "magic" confidence. Now he's a confident and assertive child, who navigates a college campus and classes on his own at just turned 14. Perhaps a cell phone/watch combo would give her some security?

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Did the doctors suspect that your daughter could have had an allergic reaction to some kind of food? I had a former employee whose son had a similar course in the hospital and after weeks of being in a very guarded condition, they discovered that he had an allergy to wheat. As I understand it, sometimes food allergies can also affect children in other ways as well. Perhaps it is something to explore?

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Please be careful about diagnosing from afar. Anecdotes are OK, and we're still within compass, I think, but there are so many idiopathic (medical for God Only Knows) acute and chronic problems that it's like trying to throw darts blindfolded. Celiac Syndrome, Disorder, or Disease is one of them; it's the "sneaky pete" of immune disorders. It seems to come on for no apparent reason at all! :)

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Just a quick update, but first I wanted to thank everyone for their thoughts and suggestions and to let you know I spoke with her primary physician and she agreed that being able to talk to someone would be good, so she has an appointment early next week. I realized that we really never discussed what happened or her feelings about it, and as EllenDana mentioned I never really thought about it myself, I just went on auto pilot. So last night I sat down and looked at the pictures I took of her in ICU, (I took the pictures on the suggestion of one of her nurses, she said one day they might be very therapeutic) and she was right, I had myself a good cry and realized just how close we came to losing her. Then I realized that maybe some of my guarded behavior was affecting her, so I will be watching my reactions a little more closely. And I also wanted to let ddm3 know they thought it was an allergic reaction at first but as she become more critical they ruled it out, they also ruled out Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Kawasaki’s Disease and Toxic Shock Syndrome. The Infectious Disease Specialist think she just had a virus that her body was having trouble fighting, but they admitted they really are not sure.

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