More threads by stuincalif

I will try to make this as brief as possible, but I don't think it's going to be; sorry. I have a perfectly normal 6 1/2-year-old daughter. She gets straight A's in school (currently in second grade), has a wonderful personality (is always "up", happy, cheerful), and is generally a joy to be around.

My ex-wife and I have been separated and divorced for nearly two and a half years. We have joint custody. We split that time 4/3 - one week I have my daughter for 4 days, the next week I have her for 3, etc. When we first separated, my daughter was very shy around my adult friends, often running into her room and staying there until my friends left the house. I spoke with our pediatrician and he indicated that this is normal behavior for a child who no longer sees both her parents together daily. She in essence does not want to "share" her time with her daddy with anyone else. He told me it was a form of separation anxiety and would eventually go away. Well, after 2 1/2 years, it has not only not gone away, but it has gotten worse, so much so that my daughter will not even LOOK or make any kind of contact with some of my adult friends, and it has now been extended to my father (her grandfather)! Her running away is also quite selective. For the most part, if any of my adult friends have kids about her age to play with, she does not run away, and she acts perfectly normal to the adults. I have a couple of recent scenarios I would like to share.

About three weeks ago, my parents were going to come to our home to have dinner with us. My daughter was very excited about them coming over, even putting on her shoes and socks in anticipation of going out to dinner. As soon as my folks' car rolled up and I said they were here, my daughter IMMEDIATELY did an about face, got very flustered and defensive and ran toward her room. I grabbed her and asked her what was going on. She started crying and said she didn't want to go out to dinner, she wasn't hungry and she didn't want to see my parents, particularly my father. I asked her why and she said she didn't know.
She broke free of my grasp and ran and hid behind a chair in her room.
Mind you, my father has done NOTHING but shower her with love, praise, gifts, etc. since she was born. When my folks came into the house, my daughter refused to move from her room. My mother tried to get her to come out from behind the chair, and she succeeded after a few minutes, but as soon as my dad came into the room, she turned her head and refused to look at him. She still would not go out to eat with us, so I ended up staying with her while my folks brought food back. While we were waiting for them to come back, I continually asked my daughter what her problem was and she kept telling me, "I don't know, I don't know why I'm acting this way, I don't know". When the folks came back, she refused to leave her room, and I told her if she didn't come out, she would not have dinner. She refused, so she had no dinner that night. When my parents left, she was perfectly normal once again, as if this never happened.

She has acted like this toward my father in the past, too, but in most cases, she would eventually relent after he was around her for a LONG while, and things would be OK for the rest of their visit...until the next time we would get together and this would all start again. Frequently when we go to their house, she refuses to get out of the car. My mother usually has to come out of the house to coax her in. Each time, she gets shy and immediately won't look at my mother, but comes around usually in no more than a minute, at least to her. With my dad, though, it's an entirely different situation. Let me empahsize again that both of my parents adore my daughter and have done absolutely nothing to provoke this behavior. My mom thinks that my ex might be influencing our daughter behind my back, and I have no way of knowing if that is true, but I doubt it because I want to share one other story with you.

Last weekend, we were heading out to have dinner and my daughter asked who we could invite to eat with us. I told her that a married couple, friends of mine who my daughter has been around off and on since she was born lived near the restaurant. She asked me to call them and invite them to go with us. The last time we had contact with this couple was at my home. They had stopped by to pick something up. My daughter was in her room. They wanted to try and talk to her and I warned her what would happen. Regardless, we went up to her room, and to my surprise, although she wasn't overly friendly to them, she talked to them and answered their questions. It was obvious though that she was not thrilled that they were there. But she was pleasant. Anyway, when my daughter said it would be OK to ask this couple to join us for dinner, I was thrilled to hear it since she has always been in "defensive mode" when it came to socializing with my friends. So I called them and they were both excited and delighted that my daughter asked them to join us. We arrived at the restaurant first, paid our way in (it was a buffet) and I told my daugter that we would have to wait to eat until our friends arrived. As soon as I said that my friends had arrived, guess what? She did it again. She broke free from me, started crying and said she wasn't hungry, she didn't want to eat, and she didn't want to see my friends. With my parents coming to our home last month, that was one thing, but now she was carrying on in a public place and inconvenienced my friends as well after inviting them herself. She ran to a corner of the restaurant and refused to come away from it. I was both embarrassed and apologetic to my friends who basically understood, since this has been an onoging problem for two years, but once again, she was happy and excited until the moment of "impact", until the "threat" occurred in person, and she got all defensive and upset. I just don't know how to deal with this and get her over this. I'm about ready to take her to a psychologist out here locally because when I repeatedly ask her why she keeps acting this way, she keeps saying (and calmly), "I don't know, daddy. I don't know, I don't know". I've told her that if she doesn't know, she shouldn't have a reason for acting that way, but she has no follow up to that statement. The last time it happened with my folks, I lost my cool and literally screamed and yelled at her, but that obviously did no good.

In speaking about this problem with my ex-wife, she has indicated that my daughter acts the same way with certain adult friends of hers, too. Again, it's selective, and she doesn't act that way toward my ex's adult friends if they have kids she can play with.

I want to stop this behavior before it gets any worse (if that's possible), so ANY advice you can give short of me taking her to a local psychologist for prolonged sessions and treatments will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much and sorry for the long post, but it was essential I give you as much info as possible!

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I am not a child psychologist and that's really who you need to be talking to about this problem. I can think of a few things that might explain your daughter's behavior but it's really beyond my areas of expertise.

I do agree that you should not simply wait and hope it goes away - it likely won't disappear on it's own.

Go and talk to an expert, but make sure the person you see is a qualified child psychologist.


I am not a child psychologist but I do work with children and am doing a degree in early childhood (almost finished). And this really sounds like she is hurting over the seperation, when my parents separated I did the strangest things!!!

Anyway definately see an expert.

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