Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Counseling for a three year old

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Question
I am a recently widowed Mom of two young children, ages 3 years and 11 months. My 3 year old has become extremely clingy and demanding since his Dad passed away. He will follow me all around the house and will even call out for me if I am in the next room. Is this his way of showing grief and does his behavior warrant a visit to a counselor? I'm worried that because I am still mourning the loss of my husband, I am failing my son.
I am at a loss.


Thank you
Leigh.

Answer
Hello Leigh,
I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your husband.
It's a double burden for you. Not only do you have to deal with your grief, but you have to still be a mommy to two children while helping them handle their grief.
Typically, one way young children deal with grief and stress is by regressing. Your toddler has become more clingy and less willing to tolerate separation. It will take your child nearly as long to recover from the loss of his father as it will take you. This could be a couple of years. But it does not necessarily mean either one of you should see a therapist. Actually, I believe counseling would perhaps be much more beneficial for you than for your toddler.
More importantly, you have to give yourself and your son time to heal and recover. That might mean that you have to allow him to be close to you and be fearful of losing you too. Eventually, both of you will get through this.
The other part of this is continuing to be a loving, supportive, and protective mom during the grieving process. Of course, you will not be at your best as a mother for a while, but that doesn't mean that you can't be emotionally supportive and accepting of your son's needs during this process.
If you have any questions, please get back to me.
Best,
James Windell  

Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers

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James Windell

Expertise

I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.

Experience

I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

Organizations
American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

Publications
I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at Jimwindell.com includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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