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My 4-year-old daughter is obsessed with the 10-year-old neighbor boy.
Q: My 4-year-old daughter is obsessed with the 10-year-old neighbor boy. We live in the country and he comes over to play with the trampoline and other toys in our backyard. She has a younger sister and many other younger relatives to play with, but everything is centreed around "Billy." For everything we do, she asks if Billy can do it, too. When we eat, she wants Billy to eat with us. She wants to write him notes with hearts on them every day, and she brings Billy up in almost every conversation. How should we handle this?
A: This type of attachment—amounting almost to an obsession—is not uncommon in young children. Sometimes it is directed to an older child of the same gender rather than the opposite, as with your daughter. If I may be personal, this sort of thing happened to me in reverse when I was an adolescent. An adorable little 4-year-old girl in the small town where I grew up became quite fixated on me, told everyone that she was my “little girl,” named all her dolls “Bettye Ruth” and even wanted to change her name to mine. I spent time with her when I could, but, as we lived a good distance apart, this was not often possible. Even so, it lasted for several years. But eventually I moved away, and she grew up. I don’t know whether she even remembers me now, although I remember her quite fondly—and remember being complimented by her attachment to me. I don’t think she was in any way harmed by her fixation. So I would suggest that you include Billy in family activities when you can, but make certain both he and your daughter understand there are limits to how much time he can stay around. And make certain that Billy doesn’t try to take advantage of her in any way.