Clingy Kids: How to Handle Them
Does your child act like her world is collapsing when she sees you leaving her to go to work or run some errands? Find out how to handle clinginess in kids. Keep reading for more information...
Your 6-month-old baby is the life of any party. She gives adorable smiles to anyone who looks at her and tries to leap into the arms of strangers.
If she could talk she'd be saying to everyone she meets, "Hey, look at me, I love you! Please carry me, tickle me and cover me with kisses!"
But when she turns 9 months old, something happens. She frowns at everybody except her parents. Those joyful gurgles are now replaced with scowls should anybody look at her.
And if a stranger dares try to carry her, her howls will bring the roof down.
In short, your little social butterfly is now totally anti-social and clings to you like she's been rolling in super-glue all day.
Child-care experts call this clinginess in babies separation anxiety and it is a fairly common and normal occurrence in almost all babies. But clinginess can also be common in toddlers and older kids.
Almost all babies experience separation anxiety and it's a perfectly normal stage of a child's emotional development. It occurs when your baby starts to understand that things and people exist even when they're not around.
A baby going through this phase will display anxiety at the prospect of being separated from his parents. He will start to 'connect' things like when you wear your shoes it means you are going out and leaving him and will react to this by being extremely clingy.
Separation anxiety usually peaks between the ages of 9-18 months.
While babies experience separation anxiety most commonly when you have to leave them to go to work or run an errand, it can also strike at night, even if they are in a cot right next to you bed.
The good news is, it is a phase and usually eases off when your baby is around 24 months old.
How to help your clingy baby
- Let your baby get to know a new caregiver. If you are pregnant and thinking about getting a maid to help you look after your new baby, employ her before you have your baby or when your baby is still a new-born.
This will give your little one adequate time to become familiar with your helper. This means she won't be so clingy or anxious when she is older and you have to leave her at home to go to work or run an errand.
- Minimise separations during this phase as much as you can. Whenever possible, take your baby with you if you have to go out.
- Practice at home. It'll be easier for your baby to cope with separation from you if she's the one who initiates it. Let her crawl into another (safe) room on her own and let her be there for a minute before you go after her.
- Always say goodbye. Kiss and hug your baby when you leave and tell her where you're going and when you'll be back, but don't prolong your goodbyes.
Try not to sneak out because your baby will become even more upset if she thinks you've disappeared into thin air.
Clingy older children
Clinginess in older kids is a natural reaction to feeling scared or anxious about something. Kids can also be clingy when things feel unpredictable due to changes in their environment, e.g. a new baby, new school/class, divorce or death in the family.
How to help your clingy older child
- Do not ignore or punish them. When kids are being clingy, it's a positive sign they feel secure and confident around you. Clingy kids know they are safe with you when they feel unhappy or anxious.
If you punish them or ignore this behaviour, they may eventually stop turning to you when they feel scared or vulnerable.
- Build independence. Kids gain self-confidence through learning new skills and feeling that they are useful to you or others. So set them simple tasks to help them feel this way.
You could allow them to help you with the cooking, get them to clean their room, or set the table. Don't forget to praise them when they complete a task independently.
The more self-confident a child becomes, the more secure they will feel in any environment.
- Increase social activities. Playing with kids the same age will encourage your child to build friendships with them, which will, in turn, help your child develop the social skills needed to interact with others outside of your family.
Try to organise regular play-dates with your child's school/pre-school mates, or neighbours.
- Schedule uninterrupted time with your child. Some clingy kids need constant attention because they are worried when or if you will be able to provide it.
So schedule 30 minutes to an hour every day where you give your child your undivided attention. You could spend this time reading, playing or just chatting together -- it's up to you.
How do you deal with clingy kids? Share your tips with us by leaving a comment.