So your toddler has been exercising her new found independence for some time. She has been taking her naps without problems and settling down at night with a good routine. However, it has been established through much research that almost all toddlers will at one time or another reach the CLINGY stage in their development. This is around the ages of 15 months to two years and sometimes even beyond; you may find yourself with a baby anaconda wrapped around your leg.
Some common causes:
Lack of trust of other grown-ups when it may necessary for you to leave your toddler in the care of an other adult when she has only had you around.
The arrival of a new baby and fearing that you will cast them aside.
Your toddlers’ language, actions and understanding are developing and while she usually enjoys the new adventure, sometimes new situations she finds herself in can become overwhelming and this can trigger her fear mechanism.
Separation Anxiety – this can be mild or it can spill over and turn into a battle at bedtime. It is also something that can be caused by mums, who transfer their own anxiety of separation to their toddlers.
How best to deal with clinginess.
Firstly, you will need to show your toddler compassion and understanding as her feelings and fear are relevant and real to her. If you have to leave your child at a daycare, assist her with some fun activity before you leave. Give her a hug and assure your toddler that you will collect her at the end of the day. Please don’t just sneak away as this will cause even more distrust and anxiety. Don’t look back once you have said your good-byes.
If you are expecting a new baby, involve your toddler in the process. For example, allow her to choose a colour for the new nursery; to touch your tummy when you’re hugging her and reassure your child that you will always love them and that they will be the big brother or sister to the new baby. This should reduce their fears of the new arrival.
The overall disposition of your toddler could play a part in her becoming clingy after experiencing a new adventure. This may create feelings of uncertainty. Toddlers adapt to new experiences in their own time and clinginess could be her way of letting you know that she is not yet ready for new people or places without you close by. Whatever you do, it’s not advisable to push her away or show any frustration.
Clingy toddlers and bedtime
Your toddler can go from being an easy self-settler to drawing out bedtime for extended periods of time. Your children will become more clingy when they are ill, teething or just plain tired. At this time your strategy must be consistent.
Try and avoid TV and stimulating activities close to bedtime. You should try to make bedtime as stress free as possible, by allowing enough time for a good bedtime routine.
Once reading, talking, cuddling and reassuring is completed, tell your toddler that it is now time to go to bed; and place her in her cot. It is a good idea to give your toddler a comforting soft toy. Reassure her that you are not far away.
When you get your ‘curtain calls’, for drink time, cuddle time or story time make it clear that it is time to sleep. Consistency is paramount. As much as you may want to scream or give into repeated demands, DON’T.
It would be detrimental to both of you if you give in to their “testing” regime. Time and patience are the most important treatments for clingy children, before you know it, she will be a happy self-settler again.
And we all love an extra hug!
Cheryl Fingleson is a paediatric sleep consultant. For more advice or to book a sleep coach consultant, please visit www.thesleepcoach.com.au