As a family lawyer I am often asked about what to do if a preschool child is clingy when he visits his non-custodial parent. Clingy behaviour is a result of the separation and is not uncommon in preschool age children with separated parents.
The child could be clingy because he is worried about losing his non-custodial parent. He may be afraid that he will not see his non-custodial parent again after he says good-bye. It may also be a result of the non-custodial parent not spending enough parenting time with the child or not providing the child with enough one-on-one time or attention.
A visit every other weekend is a dramatic reduction in parenting time for a child who is used to seeing his parent every day. A young child’s sense of time is different from ours and two weeks is a very long time to wait to see a non-custodial parent. If possible, a child may adjust better to a divorce or separation if he visits his non-custodial parent more often than once every two weeks.
You should make every effort to spend as much time as possible with your child during your parenting time and you should talk to your child to explore the reasons for his clinginess.
Often, the way parents approach saying good-bye to a child when returning him to the other parent may result in clinginess. When it is time to drop off your young child with his custodial parent, it is important to use a consistent phrase when saying goodbye, not to linger, and not to dramatize goodbyes. The parent saying good-bye should let the child know they will be together or speak soon and make sure that the child knows that the parent understands the importance of being in his life as much as possible.
You can find some helpful resources on our page “Resources for Helping Children Deal with Divorce and Separation.”
We hope this article answers the question “My child lives with his mother and is very clingy when I see him every second weekend. What can I do?” Should you have any questions or require mediation services in developing a parenting plan that has your children’s interests at heart, please contact us at 604-449-7779.