July 02, 2015

Q: My 6 year old daughter is just not that cuddly in comparison to her 3 year old sister. Is this just her personality or something more that I should be concerned about?

A: Dear Betsey1916610:

Some babies and children are more cuddly than others, just as some are more stubborn or more excitable or more active than others. Many temperament traits are lifelong and often parents can describe these characteristics in each of their children as present "since the day they were born." It is very likely that your 6 year old simply has a different personality than your 3 year old--although perhaps the difference in ages is also a factor, since 6 year olds in general are probably less cuddly than 3 year olds.

I do not believe that you can do much to change this. It would not help to try to make her more cuddly. I would encourage you to express your love for her by cuddling her when she is in the mood for it, and in other ways too--perhaps she enjoys telling you long stories, or sharing certain activities with you. It may be easier to feel "connected" to a cuddly child, so I would suggest that you to look for other ways to communicate your warm attachment to a child who is not particularly cuddly.

Rarely, a child may have problems connecting people in general. Such a child may resist cuddling and have difficulty with social relationships and with other areas of living. On the other hand, children who are upset and distressed might turn away from cuddling because something is disturbing them. Since you do not mention anything of this nature, I would assume that your 6 year old seems to be a happy and friendly little girl most of the time. If you have some doubts about this, you might discuss these issues with your family doctor or pediatrician. Otherwise, I would not be too concerned.

Elizabeth Berger MD

Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger