Does your child want to be constantly to be held? In this article, you will discover 5 easy steps on how you can handle your clingy toddler.
“What’s the deal with my clingy toddler?”
“My crying toddler begs me to pick him up, but if I do, I won’t be able to do anything else.”
“My arms and back hurt from constantly carrying my son.”
“Every time I leave the room, he melts down.”
“It took me 30 minutes to drop him off at childcare!”
Do any of this sound familiar? If this is the case, you are not alone. It can be exhausting to try to get anything done if your child constantly wants to be in physical contact. If your child is clingy, it means you’ve done a good job of making him (or her) feel secure in your presence.
When things become frightening or unpredictable, your clingy child is basically saying, “Hey, I need a little extra help here!”
Clinginess and Separation Anxiety Explained
Clinginess is a natural reaction in children with separation anxiety or fear of being separated from someone they trust. Separation anxiety is most common between the ages of 9 and 18 months, and it usually subsides by the age of three. These stages correspond to the developmental stages of a young child.
When an infant is nine months old, he realizes for the first time that you are not present when he cannot see you. When you leave the room, he may cry or refuse to sleep unless you are nearby.
He hasn’t yet learned about “object permanence,” which means that objects exist even when he can’t see them. Even if a toddler understands this concept, he will still rely on you for assistance and may become frustrated if you are out of sight when he needs you. Suddenly, your independent toddler transforms into a clingy child who refuses to let go.
The bottom line for children suffering from separation anxiety is that they are afraid you will leave and never return. During goodbyes, such as drop-off at childcare, some children become clingy and whiny. Others cling to you all day, especially at bedtime. Your first job as a parent is to figure out why your child is being clingy so you can help him get through it.
Clinginess is caused by more than just separation anxiety. When a child is tired, hungry, or behind schedule, he may become clingy. Physical changes, such as teething or recovering from an illness, can cause a child to be more whiny or clingy than usual. If none of these seem to be the cause of your toddler’s clingy behavior, try to figure out what else might be bothering him.
Are there new people around, or are you in a new location? Is there a difference in activity around the house? Could your child sense something is wrong with other family members? Changes like these can have an impact on your child’s behavior.
A 5-Step Action Plan for Clingy Toddlers
Many parents want a plan of action to follow when their toddler’s clinginess becomes excessive at home. It’s okay not to give in to your child’s demands to be held or carried once you know he’s not hurt, ill, or genuinely distressed. You can provide assistance and comfort in other ways. So, what are your options?
1. Take a moment to listen.
When your child approaches you, get down to his level and make eye contact. This shows him that you are paying attention and should help to calm him down. Try not to push him away because this may make him feel insecure about approaching you in the future.
2. Determine the problem and provide reassurance.
Discuss with your child why he wants to be held or carried. Young children lack the emotional skills and vocabulary required to express their feelings and needs. You can assist him by teaching him new words and strategies. “Are you too tired to complete the game? Why don’t you take a few moments to relax with your lovey? I’ll be standing right where you can see me.”
One way your child may seek affection is through whiny, clingy behavior. It’s difficult to keep giving hugs when you’re exhausted by repeated requests for attention. You can “store” hugs and kisses on your child’s hand or a favorite stuffed animal or lovey to make him feel more secure. You can inform him, “You can get a hug or kiss whenever you want right here. I’ll add some more tomorrow so you don’t run out.”
4. Continue speaking.
When you are doing other things, a child frequently wants to be held. Explain to your child what you’re doing and why you can’t hold him right now. You could say, “I can’t hold you right now because Mommy is cutting the carrots with a sharp knife.
But I’m standing right here! And we’ll all be having dinner together soon.” Try to remain calm and speak in a soothing tone. You can also redirect your child’s attention and involve him in what you’re doing by asking him questions. For instance, if you are cooking, you could say, “Which do you prefer: carrots or peas? I like both of them!”
5. Please be patient.
Young children learn and develop at an incredible rate, but it can appear that they will never outgrow clingy behavior. If your child’s clinginess has become a habit, be firm but patient. Give your child lots of love and praise for good behavior, but don’t pick him up as a reward for whining.
You Can Do It
Parenting is difficult, and having a clingy toddler can be emotionally and physically exhausting. However, your patience will help teach your child the skills he needs to be self-sufficient. Keep up the good work, and remember that this clingy toddler stage will not last forever!
Also, keep in mind that you are not required to do this alone. Get help from your partner, family, or a friend if you feel overwhelmed. Parents with younger children and teens can call the Texas Youth Helpline at 1-800-989-6884.