Recently I have been going through some financial hardships and was not able to keep my son in daycare (he starts reg school in September, by the way). As of about 6 weeks ago, he's been home with me and I've been teaching him (thank God for Education.com!). But he's also been everywhere with me. We live in my parent's basement apartment. I can't leave him with them if I have to go places because they both work. So we are both home all day, together, or we run errands....together. I realized that he's been getting clingly lately: following me all over the house (I have actually tripped over him several times, he was so close behind me), I sit on the couch...he holds my hand. I work on the computer, he's holding on to my arm or leaning on it or sitting on the couch with his feet on my arm. It seems like he's always touching me. Some times i get a little frustrated, but calmly tell him, "Honey I need a little space." He sadly says okay, hangs his head and walks away and I end up feeling soooooo bad. I don't want to hurt him...I just need space and me time. I put him to bed at 8:30 and he does not go to sleep until I come in there (we share a room) and that's around 12:30am. He says he's waiting for me. I feel like it's getting out of control.
We really think its great you took the time to reach out for some help in understanding and changing your son's clingy behaviors. It might seem as though your son is a permanent extra shadow, but there are healthy ways in which you can work with your son to establish proper boundaries, help him develop less of a need to feel so "attached to your hip", and to help him develop more age appropriate behaviors. While you are understandably confused and uncertain of how to address this situation, taking the time to reach out for some help was a definite sign of strong parenting on your part.
At daycare, your son was probably used to constant interaction with peers and adults. Now, at home with you he is probably experiencing less of that attention and interaction, as there is only yourself for him to spend time with. As such, he may be coming to you in an attempt to fill that void of interaction he has been feeling. To address this situation, establish specific times during the day when you will provide your son with your attention...then stick to this timeline. For example, you will give your son 15-20 minutes of attention at 9 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, 3:30 PM, etc. Set up a schedule that works for you with respect to your other duties and obligations. During the down time, help your son fill the time by providng some structure for his activities. Children (though they may not realize it), do best when they have structure. Helping to provide this structure, and sticking to it, could prove to be very helpful right now.
Simply giving the statement of, "Honey I need some space" may be an area in which you could improve as well. At such a young age, your son could do better by having a reason why space would be helpful, "Mommy needs to concentrate on her work right" for example. Providng a specific, concrete reason could help your son understand why giving you space is so important at that time. Also, practice with your son the healthy ways of accepting an answer he does not like. Instead of putting his head down and sulking, practice with your son how to take "no" for an answer.
I also have a 5 year old boy. We are together all of the time, too. He attended preschool for 2 years and daycare before that, but is still very much my boy. He begins kindergarten in the fall, too. I think that children at this age are ready to be independent, like picking out their own clothes, deciding what foods they'd like to eat, and saying what they think, but they are still looking to us, the parents, to be there to support them. My son would go to bed by himself from the age of 18 months to the age of 4, but somewhere close to his 5th birthday, he suddenly decided not to go to bed without one of us with him.
I think at 5 years that there is a growing awareness that Mommy and/or Daddy can't always be with the child and that the world is a much bigger place than they once thought it was. That's a scary thought to a 5 year old. Provide as much reassurance as you can, love your son as much as you can, and promote as many activities that provide independent experiences as you can. Hugs never hurt any child. Explain to your son that you need quiet time, just as he does. Let him know you are nearby and that he is safe. Sit with him while he falls to sleep. Also, find an activity that he can do quietly before bed with you, like reading a book after a bath, so that he lowers his energy level before bedtime and can relax. Routines are good for children this age.
As for the preschool situation, interaction with other children can come in other forms than preschool. Check out your local churches for VBS (Vacation Bible School) activities (if appropriate for your family), your local library's summer reading program, or your local stores for "build" or "craft" activities. Many of these programs are free and only require advance registration. Many colleges and arts groups also provide fee-based activities for children that are low cost options.
Closer to the beginning of the new school year, ask the school if you can take your child on a tour. They may offer a "jump start" program for new students. Begin a school routine closer to the beginning of school...bedtime, meals, waking time...so that your child can ease into the new routine.
I'm doing these same things with my son. Reassurance is often necessary, as he's a big boy most of the time, but still Mommy's baby all the time.
Best wishes from this Mom to you and a Happy New School Year to your son!