If you look up the definition of clingy toddler, you will see both of my kids at various points in their toddlerhood! Their separation anxiety was on 10! They would cry when I left a room, cry when I left them with family if I had to go somewhere, always want to be comforted by me, always want to be held, and always want to interact with me!
Of course I would think about how lucky I am that my kids want to be around me so much and love me so much it borders on obsession…because I know one day they will grow out of it and rather be with their friends.
But other times I want to drive forks into my ears and run screaming out of the house because I can’t stand one more second of being so needed!!!
Separation anxiety is a normal phase that all young children go through. I also believe some of that likely stemmed from the fact that I’m a single mom and I work from home so I am the person they see all the time and the person they feel safest with. Logically I knew this was a good thing. I wanted my kids to feel safe with me and loved by me. But I also knew there had to be a way to resolve this Velcro child issue!
Luckily there are several tips and tricks that make handling toddler separation anxiety easier!
Leave them with other people
Of course it’s hard for you to hear your kids scream for you when you leave them with someone, but it’s also hard for you to never have a moment alone. There will also be times out of necessity you need to leave your kids with someone. So even if you don’t have somewhere you have to go, start leaving them with a trusted friend or family member to get them used to being with someone other than you.
When I have to go somewhere that I can’t bring my kids, I leave them with my parents. When they would be going through their separation anxiety, they had a hard time when I would leave. It wasn’t easy for me to go but I knew I had to.
And over time it did get better! It helps if the person you leave your kids with is comfortable with young children and understands that this is a developmentally appropriate stage they are going through. This ensures they will have more patience with your kids.
When you leave say goodbye
When my daughter was younger so many people tried to convince me to sneak out and not let her know I was leaving. I never did it because it felt wrong to just sneak away and not tell her I was leaving. I know why people do it because they think it will be easier on their kid to slip away while they are distracted, but don’t do it!!
Your kid will become more fearful when you leave because they won’t ever know if when they are in the middle of something, you might slip away. They may become fearful just when you go in another room because they can’t see you anymore and think you left.
On the other hand, yes they may cry if you tell them goodbye, (I know my daughter did) but if you calmly say goodbye, give them a hug and a kiss and tell them you will see them later and leave, you are showing them they are in safe hands and that you will come back. They will always know when you are leaving and eventually there will come a day they won’t cry anymore because they know what to expect!
Now I know I just said don’t use distractions but this can work in a different situation. When I need to run to the basement and do laundry and my 2 year old is begging me to hold him and starts to cry, I find an activity that will distract him for the 5 minutes I need to get laundry done. It helps them to focus on something they enjoy while you can get stuff done.
This is also a good technique for when you have to leave your kids with someone else and they are having a hard time. That person can use distracting activities to help your child focus on the fun they will have when you’re gone.
Sometimes no matter what I try, when my kids are clingy, they want me to hold them. This is where using a baby carrier came in handy, (and still does!). I am so serious when I say that wearing my kids has been one of the best tools in my parenting toolbox!! It’s easy to put them on and continue to do your chores or work and they get that much needed connection with you. It almost instantaneously stopped my kids crying because they were getting a need met. This totally works for toddlers too because I still wear my 2 year old!
Talk to them
If they object when you leave to go in another room, you can also try talking to them from that room. Sometimes I have to go in another room for a few minutes and I know it won’t take that long and when my son protests, I talk to him. That way he can still hear my voice and it will soothe him to know I’m still there even if he can’t see me.
Try playing music
This has been hugely helpful as of late! My kids love listening to music so putting on their favorite jams let’s me do some chores without them being right under my feet.
Having a clingy toddler can be so maddening! You just want a minute to yourself but you can’t ever leave them alone or they scream and cry for you. They always want your attention and it can be enough to make you crazy. But there is hope!! These tips can help your clingy toddler overcome separation anxiety by understanding what is happening, knowing you will be back, and focusing on the fun they are having in the moment, not necessarily on where you are. In turn you will have your sanity back!
What are your best ways of dealing with a clingy toddler??
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