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The Signs of Clingy Teens

by Kristine Tucker, studioD

Some teenagers struggle with insecurity issues and respond by acting needy or clingy. They might cling to family members, friends, romantic interests or authority figures because they need someone to understand their feelings and validate their decisions. Some needy teens cling to their mothers because they feel safe and secure when Mom is around to stick up for them, protect them and provide positive reinforcement. Watch for signs of a clingy teen, then take measures to help your child feel more relaxed and secure. If your teen's behavior seems excessive and does not improve despite your best efforts, seek the counsel of a mental health care professional.


A major sign of a clingy teen is his unwillingness to accept invitations from friends or extended family members to do activities away from home or away from those who make him feel most secure. He might refuse to do a sleepover with a peer, ignore a text message inviting him to go to the mall or to the movie theater or fake illness. Most clingy teens stay away from social situations that make them feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Parents can help by encouraging their teen to participate in favorite hobbies and familiar activities outside of the home, so he can meet peers with similar interests, suggests adolescent medicine physician Adekemi Oguntala on her website TheTeenDoc.com.


Many clingy teens are introverted and tend to be shy and quiet. They might not engage in conversation or express their views in unfamiliar situations, opting for silence instead. Some teens lack interpersonal skills and don't know how to interact with others. As a result, a teen might cling to her mom, dad, sibling, grandparent or best friend because she feels acceptance and unconditional love in their presence. Clingy behavior is often a sign that a teen lacks self-confidence and feels safest in an environment in which she doesn't have to perform or prove herself.

Obsessed with Romantic Partner

Teens in romantic relationships often cling to their lovers because the relationship is physically and emotionally charged. A teen might spend all of his free time with his girlfriend, text her constantly or fantasize about their future together. Having an exclusive relationship can be a positive experience for a teen, but he must learn to balance his affections with his other interests and responsibilities. Parents should get involved if their teen shows unhealthy signs of neediness, such as controlling behavior, isolation from other friends, depression when he's away from his girlfriend, jealousy or possessiveness, says Anita Gurian, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine.

Lacks Goals

Needy and clingy teenagers often lack short- and long-term goals. Because they don't want to leave their comfort zone, insecure teens often stick to the status quo and don't set goals or expectations for themselves. A teen might enroll in easy academic classes, avoid extracurricular activities, shy away from sports or academic competitions and refuse to apply to colleges when the time comes. Parents can exercise tough love by not enabling clingy behavior. They might insist that the teen get her driver's license, accept a part-time job, participate in school activities, invite friends over, attend a summer camp or take care of household responsibilities while the parents are away.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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