“Happy homes are filled with the noise of children; unhappy homes the noise of their parents” – Agona Apell
It is a very common plight watching tots screaming and begging to their parents not to leave them behind. A child can exhibit clingy and cranky behavior when he feels threatened or unsafe in his surroundings, or is anxious. A child clings to his parents or caregiver as he feels safe and secure with them. Though you may find it upsetting when your child is screaming for not letting go your legs, it should be understood that clinginess is a part of healthy development of your child and it comes as phases. Your child’s clingy behavior will ease as he gains his confidence in his surroundings and other people. If severe clinging behavior persists by the time your kid starts school, it may be termed as separation anxiety disorder. The positive side to this is that clinging can be considered as a sign that your kid loves you, trusts you and is attached to you.
Why Is My Toddler Cranky And Clingy?
Children function on routines when they know what is happening next. This sets the pace for everything they do, sleep, eat, play etc.Now any change or modification in the routine disrupts a child’s normal pace of expectation. If a child is in a new or strange place, or if he realizes that you won’t be around, he might feel threatened by the surroundings. Why, the vacuum cleaner and the all-absorbing sink do sound as potential threats, don’t they? The very playful dog can bite as well, and the child could trip off the stairs one day. These everyday affairs make a child anxious and he feels safe only if you are present around. Moreover, young children do not have the sense of time, so even though you have been away a few minutes, they will do everything in their will so that you do not ‘disappear’ again. The below conditions could also make your tot cling to you, begging and crying not to leave him behind:
- Lifestyle changes: Certain circumstances such as transiting to his own room or teething may be affecting him emotionally and he looks upon you to alleviate the discomfort
- Family unrest: Is your family going through an emotional turmoil? Do you and your partner quarrel in front of your kiddo? Do you cry or scream in front of him? All these are likely to make your toddler more clinging and demanding of you
- Unfamiliar setting: If you have recently shifted to a new house, locality or visiting someone, then unfamiliar surroundings may make him feel insecure. He may not comfortable with the new faces and feel shy. Change in bed, room and anything that is not routine for your baby may make him cling to you more
- Sickness: If your child is unwell, he seeks solace in your arms
- New baby in the family: The attention previously given to him is now being directed to the new member. So suddenly he feels outcasted and unimportant. Clinging may be a way of seeking attention
Separation Anxiety in Toddlers
Though separation anxiety manifests in a baby when he is still 8-9 months old, it can last well in your baby’s toddler years. The fear of losing you, or the stress accompanied with the waiting time for you, makes your toddler cling to you, refusing to let go. Tears, begging, hand holding and wails all come into play as your toddler tries his best not to be left behind. Your toddler may not accept any substitute for you, and feel safe and secure only in your presence.
What Are The Signs Of A Clingy Toddler
A toddler who suffers from separation anxiety and clings to you like a noodle even when you are just leaving the room for another chore to attend will probably show the below signs:
- Constantly searching for you around
- Holding on to you even when you leave him just to use the loo
- Cries and throws tantrums that he should be carried along
- Becomes cranky and shy when he sees strangers around
- Experiences sleep difficulties
Toddler Clinging After Day Care
Your kid bawling and holding on to you can be an embarrassing and emotionally depressing scenario for you when you drop him at the day care. And after he returns, he doesn’t want to let you out of his sight. There is nothing abnormal about this. This is a stage of separation anxiety. Your kid has been brave enough to spend time without you in unfamiliar surroundings and company. And when he is back home, he again wants to feel secure in your arms.
Consider giving the favorite stuff toy or any comforting thing to the caretaker. Save it for emergency when the child is really stressed out. This situation is quite common, especially if your kid doesn’t goes to day-care daily. Try to enroll in day-cares which accommodate more days. This will allow both the caretaker and the child to understand each other as well as adjust. Your kid will settle down eventually, just give him time.
10 Tips To Cope With a Clingy Toddler
Young children clinging to their parents, especially mothers all the time can become frustrating. Here are some tried and tested tips to deal with a clingy child:
- Make it clear that you will return soon: Spell it out clearly to your child that you will come back to him. Specify time. Set out work for him to do such as coloring a page or building a car from Lego blocks. Draw pictures that list out his routine. Basically, the idea is to increase predictably so that a child knows when to expect you next, when is his special playtime, when does he get to sleep etc. This will help reduce anxiety and brings a sense of orderliness to the otherwise ‘here and now’ routine
- Never make false promises: Never tell your child that you will be waiting outside the daycare or the preschool when you wouldn’t be. Then, even when you intend to fulfill a promise, your child will not trust you. False promises are the worst things that you can do to your child
- Exhibit bold body language: As your little one wails and holds on to you, give him a hug, kiss or pat on the back. Bend down to him, look into his eyes and tell him firmly that you will come back to him. Do not linger the bye-bye process. If you become teary-eyed and falter with your words, you kid is going to sense this and cling on to you more. Use a consistent parting phrase and do not over-react to your child’s cries and tantrums
- Never sneak out: When he is engaged in playing or elsewhere, ducking and sneaking may make him lose trust in you. The best way is not to leave him alone and looking for you. Kids have the fear that parents may never return, so sneaking out will only make your child more distressed. Have someone around to engage him and follow the above tips
- Spend exclusive time with him: Kids feel secure and loved when they hold your undivided attention. They grow up thinking ‘you are a part of them’. A toddler views himself and mother as a complete package, so make serious efforts to be with him. Simply play with him or watch a cartoon together. Cuddle him, read a story or observe a bug – this will strengthen the bond
- Keep him engaged: Consider involving your child in household task with you. Even if it just means holding a potato or pouring washing powder in the machine. Being busy means no trouble for you!
- Praise the efforts of your kid: Appreciate when your kid let you go for buying grocery without creating much of a scene. Praise his conduct and activities performed independently. This will send out the message that he has confidently performed the task without mommas help
- Increase socialization: Take him to park or arrange play dates. You can hover around for a while till your child gets comfortable playing with other kids and then leave. Of course you can peek in occasionally. In this way kids develop attachment to the peers and also realize that other kids are comfy without moms
- Minimize interruption in his play: When your little one is indulging in fun game play while chatting with imaginary friends, let him be. If you will interrupt, you are breaking his confidence to play independently
- Practice separation: As he grows, let him spend time with other members without your presence. Take him to his grandparents place whilst you can go shopping. You need to instill confidence in him that time spent apart was alright
The key is to build his confidence that his mother will get back to him once the task is finished. And once you return, meet him calmly. The repeated incidence of you telling him that you will be back shortly and you were is likely to work against clingy behavior of your toddler.
“There is love in holding, there is love in letting go” – Elizabeth Berg
Honestly, do not stress much on clinginess, cuddle and hug your child, carry him once in a while, you will be missing this as he grows up!