The Need to be a Cling-On

One of the most important reasons for parents to create a lifestyle which values slow over fast is that it supports good health. Cooking meals from scratch, growing one’s own vegetables or taking the time to visit a farm or drive to a CSA, not being stressed out by rushing too and fro – all of these things contribute to a child’s well being. And when illness does strike, the slow approach again comes to the rescue. Allowing a child the time to be ill – to have proper bed rest and to stay at home in peace and quiet is a gift that those caught in the whirl of work and school schedules often cannot give. Instead, we see children given antibiotics and aspirin and other measures in the hope that they will quickly get over whatever the problem is – so that parents can return to work and children can return to school. I have written another blog entry called On Illness, Fear and Time for those who would like to read more on this.
When we are not stressed out and are able to be centered and fully aware of how our children are, we can often know when they are about to become ill. Many children’s behavior changes quite dramatically during the lead up to more obvious symptoms of illness. Some become withdrawn and pale, others, like my eldest son, become rude and aggressive (as he got older it was helpful for him for his dad and I to point this out to him so he could come to  understand his own life patterns more clearly). Many become what I like to call “Cling-ons”. Cling-ons need to nurse almost constantly, they will not let you out of their sight, they need to be physically attached to you. Children who have left the family bed suddenly need to return – children who were weaned or who have taken other steps toward independence regress. And this can be as true for teens as for babies! But if we have not taught our teens to value sleep, aloneness, rest and down time, then their backward steps and Cling-onness will be suppressed and their illness might take a turn that it wouldn’t have otherwise.
Once the child is ill, he needs to let that illness run its course. By saying this, I am certainly not saying that one should do nothing to alleviate the most uncomfortable symptoms! But I am saying  that it worth considering when one is alleviating discomfort and when one is suppressing illness.
As the child gets better, the real danger time sets in – this is when one is tempted to let a child get up and run about and to resume normal activities. Often, though, if one watches carefully, one will notice that the child seems better in the morning, but as the afternoon passes, fades and shows signs of illness again. This child is not yet better – he needs to rest.
This time then often passes into another Cling-on phase. Many children as they shed their illness and grow. go through a Cling-on phase. They need you – and they need to be allowed this. From an anthroposophical point of view, illness in an opportunity for growth – especially if it involves fever. If this is so, then it makes perfect sense that as the child moves into a new phase of growth that he needs a bit of extra support. He needs to be allowed to be a Cling-on and to get that little bit extra before going back out into the world. Many parents who do not, for instance, vaccinate and who allow their children to run fevers, report amazing growth in their child after the illness passed. I have seen that in my sons and in many children I have worked with over the years. But this takes time – time to manage the illness, time to allow it develop and run its course and time to let the child recover afterwards.
Having a child suddenly revert to becoming a Cling-on can be extremely frustrating. But if a parent recognizes that this isn’t a permanent change, that it is merely a part of the healing process, it can become a gentle and protected time when bonds between parent and child can be strengthened and increased.

Posted on January 10, 2009 in Health

  • Heather says:

    Hi Donna,
    I read with interest your recent and past articles on illness. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about a child who has never been ‘allowed’ (for lack of a better word) to run a high fever and has always been given Advil, etc. Do you have any suggestions for such a child that could help compensate/heal that part of development that was not given the opportunity to ‘burn off’ needed material. Any insights would be appreciated.

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