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Is it Normal for Preteen to Snuggle with Mom?

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I have a 12 yo single child daughter that wants to cuddle (be held) at night prior to sleeping for approximately 5 minutes. She has done this since she was a baby and without that time she is very emotional, anxious and has trouble going to sleep. I have weaned her from this behavior before with reading a book but I haven't taken the time/energy to follow through with this due to fatigue. (working mom).

Is this behavior something I should worry about concerning her mental/emotional separation from her mother? Other times, she is not near as clingy and can self settle down for sleepovers, grandparents, etc. Is there any guidelines or resources for advice?

Her stepfather is also questioning her behavior due to her age. My own parents were very unemotional concerning my own upbringing... could I be over-compensating for this and contributing to the situation? How do I find a happy medium without hurting her feelings or being punitive? -- Mother


Dear Mother,
You should absolutely not worry about your daughter. Wanting five minutes of cuddling with her mom at bedtime, even into her preteen and teen years, is completely fine. I routinely advise parents to lie down with their kids, even teens, for a few minutes in the evening to chat. If the child wants to be hugged during that time, why not?

If your daughter could not fall asleep without your presence, I would advise you to "wean" her into being able to fall asleep alone. If she could not separate from you for sleepovers, grandparents, etc, I would want to explore the separation issues. But her stepfather is simply wrong. There is nothing at all unusual about a twelve year old wanting to snuggle with her mother at bedtime, and in fact it is a sign of a healthy connection.

Your daughter is on the threshold of more independence and separation. She needs to feel your presence "holding" her as she steps into independence. Treasure your connection with her, including the physical connection. The more you meet her need for that connection, the less she will need to seek it in inappropriate places.

Enjoy your daughter.

Thanks for your replay, it was very helpful... By the way, our daughter is a very high achiever, rather "balanced", I would like to think...but the last few years of new marriage have been stressful for all involved. I think she needs the "centering" with her mom... but I feel guilty at times....

Thanks. --Kerry


Kerry- There is nothing at all to feel guilty about in connecting with your daughter, including snuggling her physically. A twelve year old may look like a young woman, but she is still mostly a child. She needs the physical contact of being held by her mother. You are absolutely right that this helps our kids “center” themselves. You will find that in the course of her teenage years, she will not ask this of you eventually — because she will be able to center herself without it. But in the meantime, she still needs your love as her center.

I know that many stepdads are uncomfortable with their stepdaughter's changing bodies. But your daughter is not expressing sexuality, she is expressing love, and a need to be held. BTW, I have a 12 year old and always snuggle with her , in her bed, at night for a few minutes. I mentioned your letter to her. She said, "Probably that girl needs snuggling even more than other kids because her mom remarried." This point is important, I think. There may be jealousy between your husband and daughter. But there is no reason you need to deprive your daughter of this important source of connection to you in order to have a good relationship with your husband. You can meet both their needs. It sounds like you have good instincts and are a terrific mom. Blessings,
Dr. Laura

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