My 7-year-old daughter has very recently become very affectionate with her soon-to-be stepdad. What could cause this? She doesn’t see her dad often, but calls him daily. Could it be as simple as she sees me hugging or kissing my boyfriend, so she assumes she should do the same? She seems to always be asking him for hugs or cuddles or trying to kiss him on the cheek. She isn’t overly affectionate when it is just the two of us at home, only when he is around recently.

It sounds like your daughter is working in her own way on adjusting to getting a new stepparent. Kids are very resilient and adaptable, but a parent getting married is a big change and one that might cause some stress or anxiety for any child.

It is very possible that she is wondering if he will love her or accept her and is seeking reassurance with her expressions of affection. She may also be trying to make him feel welcome and part of the family. If he is uncomfortable with this, then it might be worthwhile making sure that they have opportunities for bonding as a family in order to feel more secure about him and her place in the new family that doesn’t involve physical affection.

You can also talk to her gently about respecting personal space, even with family members. Another option is that you may also want to spend some more one-on-one or special time with her to provide reassurance that she will be loved and cared for in the same way even as the make-up of her family changes. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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