Friday, 21 November 2014

Ways to Cope With A Clingy Toddler...


Yesterday, I felt rather helpless.

I had my one year old Daughter feeling very out of sorts from morning til night. She grizzled and raged and wanted nothing more than to be held. Sometimes she didn't want to be held either in a frustrating play of toddler independence versus dependence.

To make it all worse, she refused to breastfeed too which was perceived by me as some kind of really painful statement. Of course it wasn't at all, but crazy child behaviour is a ripe breeding ground for crazy adult thoughts.

This went on all the very long day.

If I tried to resume housework, attend to something on the computer or make any kind movement to do anything whatsoever, there was more outrage in an instant. I just couldn't get it right and I don't think my baby girl had any more of an idea on that front either; she was pitifully clueless as to what it was she wanted too and we were both suffering for it.

And so we struggled on together, facing each woe-filled long minute as it ticked by. Finally by the evening, she calmed down somewhat, perhaps with exhaustion. Eventually she breastfeed, (and fed she did), until she could stay awake no more.

What a relief:
What. A. Day.

On my parenting journey to date, all of my kids have displayed varying degrees of clinginess at some stage in their childhood. It was fairly apparent in all of them as babies and rose and fell again with different individuals at different ages throughout their childhoods. By far the clingiest to date, is my youngest however. She has been a little cling-pot throughout her short 23 months. Celeste is forever by my side, wondering at my next move and watching me cautiously to gauge it.

I have to admit to being one of those Mums who always secretly and longingly looked towards those parents who struggled to separate from their babes at kinder and school drop-offs: You know, the ones whose child throws the mega-tanty while Mum or Dad try to depart with dignity? My kids, though having their natural and predictable, short-lived blocks of clinginess, were always so confident and independent by that stage; they were always the ones who trotted off from me without a second glance.

Though I have definitely felt sorry for the numerous struggling pairs I have witnessed many times at any centre's door over the years, I would be lying if I were to say I didn't feel just the tiniest tinge of envy at them too; a wow, your child really wants to be with you kind of envy.

Maybe I have that child now.

After much thinking on the matter on our day of anguish, I wondered at the source of the heightened behaviour before it occurred to me in a flash of brilliance: My 12 year old Son is away on camp this week. My toddler adores her big Brother and they are unusually close.

The reason was suddenly clear and so, so simple: Celeste was simply missing him and she was probably worried that Mum might suddenly vanish too.


It must be so hard for little people to remain anxiety-free when there is so much happening around them which they do not yet understand. Everyone makes decisions on their behalf: What to eat, when to eat, when to sleep and where to go. Naturally very young children seek the familiar in their daily trails and the comfort of those that protect and nurture: Their parents and usually, Mum in particular.

So how can I build a clingy, anxiety-ridden toddler into a confident child? I am by no means an expert but I have been putting a few tips to the test.

To date, I have been practising simply giving-in to the behaviour. This at first glance sounds like a total parenting cop-out but hear me out because it's a tactic that works for us.

When my baby feels anxious and hangs from my leg, stomps her foot and seems overly terrified, to me that's the cue to stop what I am doing and sit with her. Usually a hug on my lap and a few quiet minutes together is all that it takes to turn the situation from a meltdown into melted-chocolate. My toddler will naturally pull away from me when she feels she has had her lovely needs met. It's a sweet way of taking time out and I have to admit, the break together has benefits for me too as I feel more relaxed for it as well.

For times when you know you are leaving your little one, it's imperative to make your departure known to your anxious child and then keep the actual goodbye moment short and sweet. You should always tell your child that you are going and that you will be back again soon. Sneaking off unannounced can potentially breed distrust in your babe who may respond by increasing the clinginess in future. Once you've said your goodbyes and reassured your child you will return - go fast and do not be tempted return and comfort your child as this can prolong the anxiety and tantrum. Let the caregiver do the soothing in your absence. It's a hard one that one but the experts say, it's the right path to take.

 
Another important consideration is following a routine. Most people, regardless of age like to know what's coming next in life and toddlers have this desire amplified. By following a routine each day you can help to cement confidence and security into little minds. We have a routine in place daily however I definitely notice the clinginess heightens when there are changes or stress involved, particularly on my part. If I am rushing about, this switches on the clingy reaction in my toddler. I am trying hard to avoid this for both our sakes and it's difficult to say the least.
 

Allowing your child to play independently and uninterrupted can work wonders for opening their little minds to the possibility of learning the skill of independence. Alone time is imperative for aiding your child to develop their imagination and personal sense of security in themselves. By constantly reminding him or her of your presence, you can make a rod for your back. I can't think of the number of times I have interrupted a child who was playing happily over the years and with bad consequences! I have finally learned to 'let sleeping dogs lie' as the saying goes.

Finally, giving your toddler lots of together time can give them further confidence and emotional security. Much of my weekday routine is spent ferrying kids from point A to point B and my little one is shuffled about without much one on one as a result. Together time needn't be a hindrance to your day either. Think of ways to get bubba involved in your chores so that he or she will feel important and special.

Just today, Celeste was unhappy about me hanging the washing and wanted me to carry her while I did so. Not possible! I plopped my tub of pegs in front of her and she proceeded to cheer up and hand out my pegs as they were required. Happy! Happy!

In baby steps we'll get there I am sure but for now, I am treasuring these special Motherhood moments, even when they are so trying. It won't last forever and all too soon I know I will miss these special times in my Daughter's young life.
 
Have you experienced an overly anxious or clingy child? How did you / do you cope?
Do you have any brilliant tactics you can share?
 
Recent posts on Six Little Hearts you may have missed:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Linking up for FYBF and Weekend Rewind




31 comments:

  1. Good tips - I was out of sorts for the most part the other day - sometimes we just are...

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    1. Yes Lydia, we certainly all have our days.

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  2. Jody, I hear you on the clingy toddler. My two year old has been quite clingy for months. She always wants to be carried (she's getting quite heavy now as you can imagine). I think your advice about spending time with her is a good one. Sometimes I feel like I don't spend enough time. Funnily enough, she's not the one to cry at daycare drop off. Up until the last six months, my four year old was that child. Ever since she started daycare at 10 months old she has cried almost everytime. Exhausting. I tell you. Anyway, we are past that now (mostly). Happy days!

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    1. You are one of the Mums I have secretly envied then Renee!
      We can never seem to spend enough time with little kids can we, and then they always want so much of it too. Glad you are out of the woods.

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  3. Esther was anxious whenever I'd leave her at my mums or at kids church in the morning on a Sunday, where as Magdalene was as independent and cool as a cucumber. I used to get a little frustrated with Esther being so clingy but then I was told it was a good thing and something to do with separation anxiety. It can be tiring dealing with a clingy toddler but I think when they are older and want little to do with you, we will be wishing for those clingy moments I reckon. I love your suggestions on how to handle a clingy bubba. I find cuddles and quiet moments really calm my two girls down if they are a bit emotional and feeling out of sorts.

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    1. Kids always have to be polar opposites - like Nature built them that way.
      Kids definitely want less to do with you when they are older and it starts in grade 6. It comes around so fast too. I am loving these times even if they are hard now.

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  4. Such thoughtful advice. Dora has NEVER been clingy until recently (after me having to stay in hospital with Moo a few times). She likes to know where I am all the time even if it's by shouting out "Mummy?" to hear where I am.

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    1. That's an anxiety response isn't it. Couldn't be plainer. Hope it passes and it's all smooth sailing soon. x

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  5. I was really lucky to have two robust independent girls - I'm sure it was luck not good management! :)

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    1. I always thought it was luck too! It feels great and also sad when your kids can say goodbye to you so easily!
      I am enjoying having a little clingier one despite its downside. :D

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  6. I've had clingy kids and it isn't easy. Some weeks just aren't easy. I have no idea what advice to give but just to hang in there, it will pass, eventually.

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    1. It certainly makes doing anything difficult. Just this morning she was hanging on my legs while I tried to make breakfast. She just seems to know when there's something planned. We're having a big weekend and I don't know how she guessed? Thanks for stopping by. :D

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  7. I've been pretty lucky with my 3 although they all have been through their own little stages at one point or another. Very sweet that she was missing her brother. I love that sibling love.

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    1. Sibling love is the best! I feel like a successful parent when they actually love each other!! LOL!

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  8. I found toddler-wearing with our sturdy ergo was our saviour on those clingy days. We didn't have too many of them, thankfully, but carrying him didn't leave me feeling as touched out as those days when he'd follow me round and want to hold my hand or my leg all day.

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    1. Totally agree!
      We're big on baby wearing here and thanks for the tip - I should wear her around the house while I try to get on with things.

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  9. I am so lucky with my youngest, she is happy to chatter and keep her own company. The girls are so happy to see other after pick up, but are fighting five minutes later!
    My first was awfully clingy, it really makes me think now. It was hard to drop him off at childcare. Why? Kids are funny creatures :)

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    1. Boys are a little clingy by nature. I just remembered that.
      I know what you mean about the happy / fighting thing - how infuriating is that!

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  10. My 4yo has been upset when I drop her off at preschool lately. I suspect it's because we now spend the day together the day before preschool and she has trouble letting go afterwards. I've learnt to make the goodbyes short and sweet so she gets over it sooner. Although it can be frustrating when I need to get to an appointment, it's lovely to be held so tight and feel so needed by my beautiful girl x

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    1. How flattering that she has grown fond of your company! Good job Mum!

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  11. Great tips! It's so useful to think from their perspective, isn't it? Understanding the why takes so much stress out of the what. My first was mega clingy. She cried for a year at daycare- it was horrendous! So I'm feeling your pain! It was really about attending to her calm behaviours and not her anxious ones. And helping her to see she could do it. x

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    1. It's so hard to remember to think from their perspective isn't it! I think we would be perfect parents if we could manage to always apply this to everything our kids ever did.
      Crying for a year at Daycare - that would be so hard to stomach! Poor you and poor bubba! Great advice so thank you. :D

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  12. They're useful, practical tips, I certainly think there are more instances of clinginess that can be averted by taking a moment to show them some love and attention... Then there are others that aren't! :-)
    In Sweden they talk a lot about the value of playing peek-a-boo with a baby from just a few months old. The whole idea being for them to understand that just because they can't see you for a moment doesn't mean you're not there, it doesn't mean they've been left. Giving them confidence in that from the very beginning.
    #SundayBrunch

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  13. Our baby girls are very similar in age and I can relate to so much of what you have described in this post, right down to the handing out of clothes pegs :) Earlier this year, my son went to Brisbane (we're in Perth) to visit his dad for nine days. His sister really seemed quite confused by his sudden absence and was delighted when he finally came home. I agree that it's not a good idea to sneak away from a child when you have to leave them with someone else. When I leave Annalisa with my mum, I always say a quick goodbye. She cries, but mum tells me she stops within sixty seconds :)

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  14. Oh poor little poppet. It's always tough when their siblings aren't around the the routine suddenly changes. They don't understand and they can't communicate their feelings properly. Little viv is always a mess on the nights when the older twins are at their mums, so much chopping and changing. Good luck with the clingy stage! xx

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  15. Yeah the clingy stage is hard... we went through it on and off dropping her at childcare... it made me feel so guilty! Lucky it passed. Nothing worse than walking away hearing your child scream for you :-(

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  16. My clingy baby is less of a cling on these days. Which is nice!! Poor third child does not have too much routine but most of the time is ok with that. Like I put him down for a sleep at all different times to accommodate whatever is going on and he is pretty cool with this. I try to spend one on one with all of them, somedays it works, somedays it doesn't. We all just roll with it!!


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  17. yes. we have up and down days with clinging. some days i know she'll be fine and some days i know i might as well right off the day!
    good tips though. i try and keep mine entertained too giving lots of jobs and distractions help.
    thanks for sharing and linking with us for sunday brunch xx

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  18. Elliott is very clingy and anxious every time I drop him off at daycare and he's been going there since February. As you mentioned, I try and make it short and sweet and always explain that I'll be back and I try to be specific too like 'i'll be back after your afternoon tea'. I think that it is something he will eventually grow out of though, other than that, he's quite ok and is happy to do things by himself with the odd cuddle every now and then.

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  19. Yes..we have a clingy toddler at the moment..scrap that 2 clingy toddlers! Evie, 2.5 and Elsie, 1...both are poorly and both want me! And me only, its a fight to do anything, because even if i get the one on my lap to lay next to me instead then the one who is currently not with me then wants me...which then pi**es the laying down one off because i just put them down....ohhhh my head hurts just typing it! we are on day 3 of poorlys so hopefully it will be gone soon!

    Thanks for linking up to #ToddlerApprovedTuesday

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  20. Been pretty lucky with my daughter who is now 2. She doesn't go to daycare & is usually home with me, hubby or both during the day & me at night. She is happy for play days at her grandparents houses but she does like to be near all day, which means I'm not overly productive. Not so bad though as it's happy clinging lol number 2 could be a very different child though ;)

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