Do You Have a Clingy Toddler?
Mommy Holly asks, “My twenty-six month old has been extremely clingy lately. He cries every time I leave the room—even to take a shower. I am not sure if it is because of his age or our new baby.”
This is normal behavior for a toddler and you are correct to make a connection that the presence of your new baby may be the culprit. Even families where they have only one child still have a clingy toddler—it comes with the territory!
Children under three years of age are gaining independence and practicing separation from mommy, however, while they are more adventurous, they may become even more needy emotionally. It’s a simple concept for you as an adult to understand, but a scary one for your child.
You’ll find the more things you need to do for yourself (like brushing your teeth, cooking, or being on the phone) the more your toddler will cling. He senses your independence and the possibility that you won’t return. Weather you are just going to the bathroom or actually going to the market, he still feels the emotional jolt the same.
Now that you have a new baby, he probably feels your shift in energy and then kicks into high gear with the clinginess.
Here are some things that you can do to help him through his phase:
- Be sure he has a lovey or attachment object, like a blankie or stuffed animal, to sooth himself in your absence.
- Prepare him in advance that you will be leaving his side.
- Tell him ten minutes in advance of taking your shower; let him know he can play with special toys while you are showering.
- Empathize when he cries or shows fear, by saying, “It’s hard for you when mommy is busy, you just want to be with me, I love you too.”
- Sometimes all it takes is for mom to stop what she is doing give a loving hug and read a book.
- Make him your little helper when tending to your baby.
- Get help—it would be great if you had a friend, family member, or sitter come over to assist you.
- Join a playgroup or set up regular play dates with children who are similar in age. Toddlers need to play with their peers; it is an essential part of teaching socialization.
There is nothing you can do to prevent this natural developmental phase. Most toddlers find it distressing to be separated from the things and people that they love. Although it looks like your child is miserable during your absence, there is no actual harm to your child. Look at this as an opportunity to bond. This is a time to offer hugs, kisses, empathy, and unconditional love.