My daughter is 7 years old and always wants me

Renee - posted on 07/10/2012 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I'm a single mom and my 7 year old is constantly wanting me to play with her. I do play with her and watch countless show/disney/tv that she chooses. How do I get her to play on her own and be more independent? Don't get me wrong, I love having her want to be around me and I love spending time with her but I just need a break and then when I assert my "break" not feel super guilty. Any advice?

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Mary - posted on 07/10/2012

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Although I'm not a single mother, my 3.5 y/o is an only. I totally understand what you are talking about, though - when you have an only, YOU are their sole constant playmate. However, there are times when you either need to ge stuff done, or simply cannot stand even one more minute of playing the never-ending memory game, building towers, or whatever - and you just need to be left alone or you will simply lose what little of your mind you have left.

And then, you feel badly, or guilty, or like the worst mom on the planet for not playing with your kid (or the ugly truth that you really just don't want to!).

First of all, you need to let that guilt go. Even though my daughter is not yet four, she has certainly reached an age where she can play by herself for 30-60 minutes so that I can do laundry, iron, pay bills, vacuum, or whatever. I struggled with this for a while - for me, it was about realizing that she was no longer a baby or toddler who needed my constant supervision or was incapable of of entertaining herself for an interval of time. That, for me, was the key to letting some of that guilt go - understanding that it wasn't a genuine need she was expressing, but rather - a desire. Part of my job as her parent is to gently teach her that you cannot always be the center of attention, or have all of your demands and wants immediately met. I'd be doing her no favors down the road if I constantly gave her my undivided attention all the time.

As a SAHM, she does get a lot of my time and attention throughout the day. We do lots of fun, crafty and messy things together. However, when that activity is finished, I kindly but firmly tell her that I need or want to do whatever, and give her suggestions about how she can entertain herself. I also have her in a ton of different activities outside the house, with other kids her age. four-five days a week, we go somewhere, and do something together outside of the house. That too alleviates any guilt I might feel - I know that I am doing all that I can to keep her from being bored, and having something specific to look forward to each day. If we have attended story time at the library together, or gone to the playground for a few hours (where I don't just sit and play on my phone, but actively watch her, slide and climb with her), I have no guilt whatsoever about telling her she needs to color or paint by herself for a bit while I talk to my sister on the phone, or even come on here. I am also very conscientious that if we've been apart for a while - she's currently at camp for four hours four days a week - that when she comes home, I spend that first hour being fully engaged with just her. When she wakes up from a nap, she gets my undivided attention for that first half hour after waking.

I guess essentially what I am saying is that I don't feel badly about refusing any excessive demands for attention because I know that I am giving her more than enough of my time and focus. In truth, she rarely gets upset with me or protests if I tell her I need to do something, and I believe it is because she knows, and feels completely confident in the fact that when I am finished, I will be happy to play with her her, or include her in whatever I'm doing.

Jenn - posted on 07/13/2012

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Sounds like she is lonely. At her age, kids are very social. I agree that finding playmates for her would be beneficial to your daughter and you! I found a wonderful friend through a playgroup and years later we and our kids are very close. Her son is an only and she makes she he interacts with other children regularly. It gives her a break too!

Alexis - posted on 07/11/2012

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Its hard to not feel guilty, but you will need to keep your ground. With my son, he is 3, if I am doing something he can't help me with and he needs to play on his own or I just need a break I give him the option of playing in the backyard or his room. If he still insists that I need to be with him I will let him play with his toys in the same room as me and remind him that I am busy but will play with him when I am done. Its actually really good to instill the ability for your little ones to be able to play by themselves, it helps with imagination and independence.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 07/10/2012

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Maybe get her out on playdates more often. Take her to the park to be with other kids. Or a mommy group?

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Renee - posted on 07/13/2012

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@Mary I'm so happy you share the same as me lol My cat takes a good brunt of it, she's like a dog in many ways. Most cats would run and hide but she plays fetch, steals toys, and lays down by Kaylee. God knew what he was doing when we adopted Nemo (who is a girl, my lesson is don't let a 3 year old name your pet after their fave movie!)

Mary - posted on 07/13/2012

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Happy for both of you, Renee!

My "worst" days with Molly being up my butt are those when we don't go anywhere or do anything. Those are the days when she is most apt to whine and badger me (and torment the heck out my poor dogs!).

Days where she has been out with other kids are rarely a problem in that regard.

Renee - posted on 07/13/2012

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@Jenn H. First I read your post and was like OMG she's not lonely!! But then I took a step back and had to get over myself. I grew up with my brother, though we bickered a lot, we still had eachother to be around. I have been keeping Kaylee in a bubble because she has a severe food allergy. Reading the posts I realize how much I need to let up, especially because she is 7 and has a good handle on what she can and can't eat. So, I allowed her to go over to one of her friend's houses from her class. She stayed and played and had so much fun! I was able to do some shopping without the "I'm bored" "can I get this?" "how much longer" "I'm tired" etc etc...So, I am taking baby steps...
@ all my Encouraging Moms A HUGE Thank you!

Stifler's - posted on 07/11/2012

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It is definitely ok to tell her to play by herself for a while. I get sick of my kids climbing all over me and rejoice when it's nap time and I can eat in peace and drink my cup of tea and watch a show without them talking jibberish all through it. Set the oven timer and tell her to play by herself until it goes off. I am not even a single mum and I need time alone during the day.

Renee - posted on 07/11/2012

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@ Little Miss Can't be wrong---Sometimes I just want to be home and relax. I am a teacher and work a second tutoring job at a clinic, so when summer comes, it is so welcomed. I have Kaylee in dance class twice a week and piano lessons. All of which she loves. I will look into the Mommy groups. I can build my friendship pool. This site is a huge support and I just signed up. Thank you for your suggestions :-)

@Mary---I really appreciate your post! It's like I needed someone to tell me, it's OK. You're very reassuring that I am doing the right things. I am present and in the moment, when Kaylee and I are playing. I am going to be assertive with no apology for that hour of "what I want to do time." I have her help me with the chores around the house because she loves to help and that cuts down on the toy playing for me. I'm gonna work on giving myself permission to be human :-)

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