My 9 year old son cries and throws a fit when his dad leaves without him. It's not just when he leaves for work; it's everywhere.

He sometimes questions his dad as to how long he will be gone, and who he will be seeing, etc. It's almost as if he has to give him permission.

Is this normal?

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    Hi, ericka, and welcome to the site. It is difficult to give advice on so little information. You might add details: how long has this been going on? Has he had any sudden, traumatic changes in his life (new school, death in the family, death of a pet, etc.) Are you the mom? Do you have any ideas why he might be behaving this way? The more you tell us, the more helpful our answers will be to you. Apr 12, 2015 at 19:43
  • I have seen this kind of behavior many times but it can change situation-ally, 1) More attachment to dad(normal), 2)feels alone without dad(need to be take care), 3)Having some behavioral changes due to some other circumstance (depends) Apr 13, 2015 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


Ericka, thanks for your question. I am a father of four, with three boys: 7, 12, 15 years old. I definitely see this separation anxiety as a real problem. While "normal" can be hard to define, if my 7 year old did this to me, I would certainly want counsel myself.

What kind of relationship does he have with his Dad? Was there recently a traumatic event that may've lead to these separation anxiety/tantrums?

Maybe you can encourage Dad to plan some time in advance with his son, then let his son antcipate the next time together. It could be that he feels insecure because of something that happened recently or even a nightmare or dream about Dad. Providing more "normal" time together will heal this in time.

Hope that helps!


All children experience some degree of separation anxiety. It can come in different shapes, forms and intensities at different times.

What can help:

  • play peekaboo, hide and seek, etc.

  • prepare the child for the separations.

  • pick a day (once a week or once a month) for a special father - son outing or project.

  • model a better way of expressing the feelings, such as, when the father comes back, say, "We missed you! We were sad!"

  • don't sweep the child's feelings under the rug. That can backfire, and get you an even greater intensity of feeling. Remember that everyone is entitled to experience whatever feelings they have.

  • help the child work on expressing feelings with expressive words. Lots of feelings -- not just panic about father leaving.

Forgive me if the above are already obvious!

There are screening sheets your doctor can give you that can help evaluate your child's general mental health, to see if there's more going on than just the tearful good-byes. It might also be possible to do some screening at school.

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