My ‘High-Needs’ Child and ‘Strangers’

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


If there’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for when I had my daughter, it was that she wouldn’t accept anyone but her parents near her. I had visions of being able to take her for visits to family and friends, babysitting by my mum, and a little bit of a break when myself and her dad needed it. We had no idea our expectations would go out of the window!

From the age of about 8 weeks old, Nookie would not allow anyone but myself or her dad to touch her. Family and friends felt shunned as their attempts to hold our beautiful baby were met with intense screaming! As she got older, she began to make it perfectly clear she did not want anyone strange near her. Visits outside the home started to become a nightmare. I felt like a social outcast. 

As time went on, gradually she began to warm to my mum and step-dad. She didn’t want them to touch her, and needed a lot of reassurance from me, but slowly she gained trust in them. I’m grateful to them for their patience and understanding, allowing Nookie to come to them on her own terms. By the time she was about 8 months old, Nookie had finally accepted them as part of her family, and her bond became absolute. It might have taken her a while, but once she attached, she attached deeply!

But, Nookie is now 20 months old, and though she will now happily be looked after by her nannie and grandad for many hours, they’re still the only people she will allow close to her. She is terrified of my brother and his wife. I’ve given up trying to visit them, as Nookie spends the whole time clinging desperately to me in silence. She hates visiting the homes of my friends, even those with children her age, and sits on my lap on the verge of tears. It’s frustrating, but that’s the way it is. 

Sometimes we have to throw our expectations out the window and adapt. I had to learn to manage with Nookie without the help from family and friends I had always anticipated. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s taught me a lot about myself and helped me develop a deep bond with my daughter. It’s also taught me patience and understanding, and how to be an advocate for my daughter when some people who don’t necessarily appreciate how sensitive she is try to impinge on her boundaries. I’ve had to say no many times to eager people who want to touch and hold her, and I’ve had to be firm when she has made it clear she’s had enough. It hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t always been popular, but I’ve done what I’ve had to do for my daughter’s emotional wellbeing. 

And I know that in time, just like with my mum and step-dad, she’ll grow in confidence and start to accept others in her life. It’ll just take a little more patience from me, but she’ll get there. 

Nookie asleep on her Nannie


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.


Filed under Attachment Parenting

26 responses to “My ‘High-Needs’ Child and ‘Strangers’

  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing this.That’s a sweet picture and a sweet image. Your daughter is lucky you are such an advocate for her comfort level and willing to be unpopular…that is always tough as so many feel they know what you should be doing as a parent and expect what they see as “normal”… here’s to the joy that inches out from the levels of progression to come.

  2. I totally feel you on this one. Mikko has been similarly high needs, though I think Nookie’s got him beat! If it helps any to know, it keeps getting better. Now at almost 5, he still hates being left with anyone else, but there’s less screaming. Most of the time. Ha ha! Ok, I wouldn’t call that reassurance for anyone else, but as the parents of a high-needs kid, we take what we can get, right?

    I’m so glad Nookie warmed up and attached to your mum and step-dad. That’s really special, and will set the foundation for connecting with still more people when she’s ready.

    Speaking of which, we too have had many moments of people trying to force Mikko to be ready for separations before he was; grr.

    • We do absolutely take what we can get! I’m glad to hear it’ll get better. Nookie is slowly getting better with strangers, but it’s tough.

      Yes and it’s difficult trying to get people to understand isn’t it. They tell you to just leave your child with someone if you have to work or whatever, and I can’t communicate just how devastating that would be for her! She would be traumatised!

  3. I’m so glad your parents were so awesome and patient, but sorry that you haven’t been able to get the help you expect. Your daughter is lucky to have you as an advocate, and so lucky to have a mama who really listens to her needs, who takes things at her pace.

  4. That would be so difficult indeed. I applaud you for being sensitive to your daughter’s needs. I can only imagine how tough those waters are to navigate, but I have to believe that it will all pay off, as with your support, your daughter can begin to feel more comfortable, little by little.

    That is a precious picture. xo

  5. Her grandparents were wonderful to be so patient and understanding. I’d hope they would be nothing less. That lil girl is very lucky to have YOU, too!

  6. This is not an easy situation! And it looks like you’ve learned to deal with it with a positive attitude, which is an accomplishment! I do remember a time when my older son was about 6 months when he would be very scared of anyone who didn’t live with us. This was a very difficult for the grandparents. Luckily this stage did not last long for our son. But I did use this as a learning experience for our younger one and made sure to orchestrate visits during this age in such a way that he felt safe. I learned to identify when he is scared much quicker and was able to whisk him away and distract him before he was able to get truly upset.


  7. My daughter, now 4, was very much like you describe yours, and I too had to come to terms with my own expectations and follow her cues, despite some hurt feelings from friends and family. I can totally relate to feeling isolated (and frustrated). It was an interesting journey for us, but from age 3-4 we had a really hugely transformative year and went from not staying with anyone (except parents and one grandparent) to going to her first drop off school experience – which began with a lot of difficulty but turned into a really positive experience where she now enjoys playing with other kids and happily leaves for school. Every kid is different of course (as we know!!) but I write this to give you a look at a similar disposition child who went from extreme shyness and social anxiety to independent and joyous play on her own terms, in her own time. So know you’re not alone, and most likely things will shift with time.

  8. Thanks for sharing – I can really relate since we too have a high needs son. It can be difficult to do what you know is right for your child when society pushes kids to detach and become independent at such a young age.

  9. codenamemama

    Kieran is similar, and it does get better!! We have also learned to adjust expectations, but parenting to her needs will be its own reward, as she will always know that she has a safe and trustworthy home base.

  10. Right on strong mama! My intensely shy daughter started coming out of her shell at age 5. Before that, I spent a lot of time explaining that it was okay for her to feel that way (out loud in front of other people). I hope you are able to use your family for support in other ways.

    • Thanks. Explaining it in front of others is a great point! I never thought of that. That seems like a good way to get the point across. Thank you. :)

  11. “It hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t always been popular, but I’ve done what I’ve had to do for my daughter’s emotional wellbeing.”

    This is such a great gift for you to give her! It’s really hard to get over your own ideas of what you want and how you thought parenting would go, and what’s “normal” to other people.

    My middle son, who will turn 7 next month, was Mommy’s Boy from the moment he was born. To this day, I think he would be perfectly happy if nobody else on earth existed but the two of us. When he turned two, I had a family-only birthday party for him – just him, his brother, my husband and I, and my siblings/parents. Even this group of close relatives was too overwhelming for him. He completely and utterly fell apart and spent two hours crying inconsolably with his face turned to my chest. He really needed to just have his immediate family there. It took a lot of standing up to people (like my mother, who indicated that I should spank or isolate him for his “bad behavior”) and years of being more isolated than I would have liked, but little by little he did warm up to other people. He is still a kid who has definite limits and he defends them, but because we acknowledged his sensitivities, learned about who he is as a sensory person, and helped defend/extend his boundaries gently, he is really in touch with how he feels and what he needs. I’ve never met a kid with such incredible emotional intelligence. I think if we had shut him down, punished him, and forced him outside of his comfort zone, we would have all been miserable for a very long time, and he would be a squashed kid with a lot of awful feelings and little ability to understand himself or others.

    By the way – the next birthday party we held for him was at age 6, at his own request. And in the four years in between, he has taught us all SO much about who he is and who we are, and how all of us can nurture ourselves and each other.

    Keep on supporting your daughter! You are giving her a gift that will last her whole life.

    • I still find it hard sometimes to drop my expectations. It’s really challenging. Sometimes Nookie will take hours to get to sleep, and I’ll find myself thinking that this isn’t normal and how unfair it is that she takes over an hour to drop to sleep .I’ll think she SHOULD sleep easier. And then I’ll remember that she’s her own person, and that this is normal for her.

      Aww thanks for sharing your story. You sound like such a strong mama! It’s hard to go against the advice of your own parents isn’t it. What a great start in life it sounds like you gave your son! Thanks for the moral support. :)

  12. This can’t be an easy situation for you but you seem to have the patience and stamina to make it work in the long run. At least you won’t have to worry about in-laws spoiling your child rotten (that can be frustrating too). It is so apparent that your little one trusts you completely and that is more important then whether others can hold her or not. Keep up the good work :)

    • Thank you. Yeh, we have issues with spoiling too sometimes. Thankfully my mum is usually pretty supportive and understands my feelings about certain things. And I allow her a certain amount of grandmotherly indulgence. But she can go overboard sometimes. My grandmother is worse! Ha ha. She was trying to give my daughter chocolate from the moment she was old enough to eat solid food! Ha ha.

  13. My daughter was not very trusting in others at first either, and we had the meltdowns and screaming you describe, even with close family. But somewhere around two years old, it was like a switch turned in her head. She went from screaming whenever I tried to leave her with anyone to sitting in strangers laps on planes. It was completely unexpected! Now we have a precocious four year old who sings in public and is generally passionate about everything. She is a spitfire, to be sure, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It takes patience to allow our children’s personalities to blossom on their own terms, but it sounds like you’re on your way to helping her achieve an independent voice.

    • Thank you. A spitfire… what a great term! I like that. I’d say that’s exactly what Nookie is too. I too wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the days where she drives me to absolute distraction; I still love her passion for life and energy. I’d never want her to change.
      Thanks for your comment.

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