I have a 9 year old son who is very big into snuggling. He has been that way since he was a baby. When my husband goes out of town on business trips (every other month or so), he insists on sleeping with me every night. Some nights he still crawls into bed with us. He still likes to snuggle before he goes to bed. He's also very affectionate. He can't hug you enough. I've always been very affectionate so I'm sure he's learned it from me. My question is this: at what age is it not ok for him to snuggle with me and sleep with me while my husband is away? It doesn't feel wrong to me but I don't want to do something that he is too old for.
From: Kate, Wayland, MA
In many cultures, sleeping together even at this age is not all that unusual. In our culture, it is, and the typical boy knows that. So this is not so much about being affectionate -- that's wonderful, and I say: count yourself among the lucky few, it could end any day -- it's about reading signals, both cultural ones and yours.
Specifically, I'm wondering whether your son somehow thinks it's his "job" to sleep in your bed when dad's gone. When your husband leaves, does he playfully tell your son, "You take good care of mom, now. You're the man of the house when I'm gone"? Do you off-handedly mention -- maybe not even to him, but on the phone to a friend? -- that you don't sleep well when your husband's away?
What's more, the typical 9-year-old most likely doesn't want to be snuggling with mom except now and then while you're watching TV together. This is usually tied to pre-puberty, so it could happen anytime.
So all of this further makes me wonder if there is something about his sleeping arrangements that frighten him and maybe thinks might be "babyish" to outright admit to. Or maybe hugging is his way of getting your undivided attention? I'm just throwing out ideas.
If you think maybe you've inadvertently sent signals that you need him in your bed, it's time to say, "You know, I'd like to sleep by myself when dad goes away this time." Don't put it on him. If he feels burdened, he will be relieved. If not, he could just be that rare kid who loves to snuggle, just like you say. If he protests, if this continues into puberty, or if you're just plain worried, consult your pediatrician.
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