Many children can become anxious or clingy when they are separated from people they know and trust. Separation anxiety is usually the most intense when children are between 9-18 months old. Then it tends to improve as they reach age three. These stages harmonize through the phases of child development. In this post, we’ll provide you with tips for how you can deal with a clingy toddler. But first, let’s examine some of the reasons why children might be clingy.

Why are toddlers clingy?

When babies reach nine months of age, they start to realize for the first time that if they can’t see you, it means that you’re not there. They tend to cry when you leave the room and may have trouble falling asleep in your absence. Infants can not yet comprehend the concept of “object permanence.” This means that an object (or person) still exists, regardless of whether they can see it. Even when your toddler finally comes to understand this concept, children at this age are still heavily dependent on you. It upsets or frustrates them when you’re not around.

The reason for separation anxiety is rooted in young children’s fear that you will leave and not return. When it’s time for parents to say goodbye during morning drop-off at daycare, some youngsters become clingy and cranky. As a parent, it can help to determine the source of your toddler’s clinginess so you can possibly help your little one overcome this fear.

Steps to help you deal with a clingy toddler

Stop and listen

Parents need to bend down in order to make eye contact with their little ones, as they need your attention right now. This gesture signals to children that you’re ready to listen and that they should remain calm. Don’t push them away, because this can exacerbate their feelings of anxiety. This could also cause them to be more afraid in the future.

Determine what’s bothering your child and give reassurance

Try to find out why children want to be carried or held by asking them what’s wrong. Remember that children at this stage may lack the skills and words to clearly articulate and explain their feelings and needs. After finding out what’s wrong, let your child know that you’ll be there.

Provide comfort

Clingy behavior might be your child’s way of receiving your affection. It can be hard for parents to give hugs constantly, especially when they’re busy. Moreover, it can also be exhausting to provide little ones with constant attention. A great way to help children feel more secure is to place “extra kisses” on their hands, their favorite plushie, or lovey. Ensure little ones that you’ll store your kisses in that spot every day so they’ll never run out of them. With this gesture, your child will be better able to soothe him or herself.

Talk to them

Children often seek attention when you’re busy with something else. During these times, it can be helpful to explain what you’re doing and why you can’t hug your child at the moment. As you explain, keep your voice calm. You can also try asking children questions to divert their attention.

Patience is key

Children at this age can learn and develop quickly.  However, there will be times when they don’t seem to grow out of their clingy behavior. If your child can’t seem to shake the clingy habit, it’s important for you to be patient yet firm. Praise children when they do a good job exerting independence or behave well. And be firm if your little one becomes whiny.

Provide your child with choices

Toddlers tend to enjoy independence and autonomy. With this in mind, give children small choices when they are acting clingy. For instance, you can say “Yes no?” But when it comes to deciding on an activity, keep your “yes/no” questions open-ended so children can still receive the attention they desire.

Create a routine for each day of the week

It’s beneficial for clingy kids when parents post a daily schedule on the refrigerator or keep a visible wall calendar. By establishing and discussing plans in advance, children will feel less lonely or uncertain about what is coming next.

Cornerstone Learning Center helps parents cope with having a clingy toddler. We offer a variety of activities that keep children engaged, and offer strategies that help improve behavior. Contact us today for more information!