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Why Your Toddler’s Being Clingy – And How To Cope With It

If your child’s suddenly become uncertain when you’re not around, reassure him with a gentle approach

Whether it’s grabbing your legs or screaming when you disappear from sight, seeing your toddler become clingy can be so upsetting – but it is generally just another part of his development.

‘Clinginess comes in phases, but triggers can include a new sibling, starting nursery, a house move or even something as simple as going on holiday,’ says Fi Star-Stone, author of The Baby Bedtime Book: Say Goodnight To Sleepless Nights.

‘Sometimes it’s about a strange place, different bed and unfamiliar surroundings… any change in the regular routine.’

Whatever the reason your toddler’s doing his best glue impression right now, understand what’s going on to help the phase pass.


Picking mum over dad

If his clinginess means you’re number one while your partner’s shut out (or vice versa), don’t panic.

‘It’s totally normal for babies and toddlers to show a preference for one parent during these phases,’ explains Fi.

It can help for the one your toddler’s less clingy with to get really involved in things like bath time and massage. Plus, bring in lots of family time and make sure care is as equal as possible. And if the change is a new sibling, give him lots of quality time and make him feel included.


Ease into interaction

You want to strike that balance between reassurance and still helping your child feel comfortable around anyone that isn’t you.

You want to strike that balance between reassurance and still helping your child feel comfortable around anyone that isn’t you 

‘It's important your child interacts with others, and you can't carry him all the time,’ says Fi. ‘So boost his confidence by sitting with him on your lap while he plays until he feels secure enough to leave your safety net.’

Encourage time with family and friends too, by letting them hold your toddler while you’re close by.

‘Don't force it, though,’ says Fi. ‘Increase the distance between you and others while they’re with him, but go softly. The insecure feelings are very real to your little one, and ignoring them won't help.’

The leave-the-room trick

If it’s safe, try leaving the room but keep talking to reassure your child that you’re still around.

‘Say something like, “Mummy’s just going to get your nappy, I'm coming right back” and talk continuously while you are getting it,’ says Fi.


Moving into childcare

It can be one of the toughest times leaving your little one at nursery or with a babysitter, but some strategies can make it easier.

‘A settling in period is ideal, so a few hours at first and then working up to a full day,’ says Fi. ‘Always give a hug and kiss, say goodbye and that you'll be back. Reaffirm this several times so it sinks in, even if he’s upset. With older children, give a time scale, so you’ll be back after they’ve had lunch, for example.’

Stick to the same routine, too – everything from who drops him off to how he hangs up his coat will help him understand that although it’s hard, you will come back.

‘Another great way of helping him cope is to give him something that smells of you, such as a T-shirt or blanket,’ suggests Fi.

How do you cope with your toddler’s clingy phases? Let us know on the comments board below.

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