Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels
I’d like to admit here that I had one of these. Of my two sweet kids, the first (the elder) one was clingy and God was I worried! Hell I was! Each passing day. Is she going to be the same when she grows up? When is she going to start doing things on her own, I’d think (especially after the second one came in).
And to make matters worse, there was the society, ever ready to point fingers at the mom with a “clingy” child. “Why is she still in your lap? Isn’t she big enough to walk on her own?”
“You’re making a big mistake. Start leaving her away from you for a while or you’d regret later.”
Needless to say, I was worried. And they weren’t helping much either. So it went on for a few years (even after my second one came) until finally I decided to observe and probe the matter a little more.
I started paying keen attention to my daughter’s behavior patterns, the specific times she’d particularly like me to be close to her, as also why really she was doing that (because obviously she was getting older). And now I really was concerned.
I’d admit again. It wasn’t very hard. It only took me a bit of observation and some heart-to-heart talk with her to understand her clingy tendencies. And I’m so glad I did this. For, I was able to learn not only why she did so but also how I could help her get on to the path of becoming independent. So here I share all that I learned for the benefit of all who’re still confused and stuck on the same boat.
Understand Why Kids Get Clingy and No, They Don’t Have A Problem
It’s easier to label the child “clingy” but it’s tough to find out why they are. I’m so glad I took the tough road to understand my daughter better and to help both of us, as well as shut out all those mouths that kept making fun of her.
Here are the top reasons why your child may keep sticking around to you nearly all the time -
This is the most obvious reason and any mom may be able to decode it. Your baby/toddler tends to cling on to you the most when he/she is hungry, sleepy, or upset for any other reason. We classify those moods as “hangry” or “cranky” but yes, those are the exact moments when your child needs you to understand them and to comfort them.
He/she is scared. The fear could be about anything - a totally new experience, place, setting or environment to which they’re exposed, or the fear triggered upon meeting a new stranger, or just an emotionally overwhelming incident (like in my case the arrival of a new baby in the house).
Clinginess is no problem and your child definitely doesn’t have one. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise and make you feel guilty about it.
Clinginess could also be triggered as an aftermath to a specific event or incidence. In such cases, the child may just be too quiet or seem like in a state of shock at the moment the specific event happens. But afterward, most often when they’re alone with you, they might start getting clingy as an expression of memory of that fear or scare.
Clinginess in toddlers is completely normal because they’re growing each day and as they continue hitting growth milestones, they tend to seek comfort and solace in the mother’s presence. Why? Because they’re often unsure of how to take the next big step, which definitely seems like a big leap to them.
Sometimes an older child - a pre-teen or even a teenager - may tend to get clingy. This may appear contrary to popular understanding that only kids cling on and usually grow out of the clinginess as they get older. An older child’s feelings in this case are totally valid. Look for reasons for the same. It could be due to moving homes/school, the death of a family member, or even peer pressure/bullying.
Nobody’s gonna tell you this but your child getting clingy to you is actually a good sign because it shows how strongly and deeply attached they are to you! It reflects your child’s confidence in you that whatever may be the case, they can count on you to comfort them. So congratulate yourself, walk past the blabbers that make you feel guilty and feel proud that your child’s deeply attached to you.
How to Deal with a Clingy Child? Trust Me, It’s Easy
There are only a few things you need to do here. Your child would get back the comfort and solace they’ve been seeking from you and may even stop getting clingy.
###1. Acknowledge your child’s feelings###
This is most important. I know it seems tough when you’re tired, unwell, or in a public space and there are eyes gaping at you both as your child keeps sticking closer and closer. The feeling is totally one of discomfort. Amid all this, it seems difficult to even try and understand why your child’s behaving so. If anything, you’re angry, restless, embarrassed. And in most cases, chances are you might even vent that all out on your li’l one.
Totally understandable. Been there, done that. Still, I’d tell you - ignore the stares, pull yourself together and make an effort to validate your child’s feelings that very moment. Remember, rather, remind yourself at the time that nothing else is as important now than comforting your child.
When you move forward with that intent, you’re helping your child calm down and perhaps even soothe themselves. When they see that you’re not judging them unlike everybody else in the room and are just there for them without expecting anything in return, it makes a world of a difference to their behavior. Try it.
Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels
2. Now comfort them
So we start with acknowledging what they’re feeling, without, most importantly, judging them. And then we start comforting them. Sometimes just your presence is enough. At other times, you might need to start asking questions to understand more about what’s bothering them.
Now comforting may mean different things for different children too. Some may ask for a hug/cuddle, some may just ask you to stick around for a little while (especially if you’re outside at a party or have guests over and are not able to spend enough time with your kid).
In this case, just leave everything and be with them for a little. That’s all they want. They can’t say it or perhaps don’t want to. Some kids are very sensitive to their parent’s needs and may just not say anything that upsets their plan. Return the favor. Stay close to them, if that’s all they want.
3. Most important, don’t leave them to handle it on their own
They just don’t know how to. And trust me, this holds true even for an adolescent/teen/slightly older child. When they’re in that confused/troubled state of mind, you possibly can’t expect them to act up sensibly and tackle it out on their own. They need you because however grown-up they may seem to you, you’re still their parent.
Can You Prevent the Child from Being Clingy?
It might seem difficult with toddlers/small kids but again, for a mindful parent, nothing’s impossible! Based on your observation/learning from past experiences, be prepared and in turn prepare your li’l one for the next upcoming experience.
It could be an outdoor public event that you’re apprehending or just an indoor family gathering, talking to your kid in advance can sometimes help. You don’t need to necessarily give stern instructions but just gentle reminders on what they should do in case they feel uncomfortable. Encourage them to come and say to you what/how they’re feeling, rather than just cling on without saying anything.
Also, look for signs in your own behavior at such instances that might be triggering such a response from the child. For instance, is it because you tend to get too busy and perhaps ignore the child when outside home? They might be craving for your attention. Or, perhaps you’ve forgotten their usual routine (and this holds more true in case of toddlers/small kids) for meal/bedtime.
SUGGESTED FOR YOU: How to Help a Socially Anxious Child?
Clinginess is no problem and your child definitely doesn’t have one. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise and make you feel guilty about it. It’s just a matter of time. Your child would slowly and surely grow out of it. Until then, just hang in there and keep those eyes open for signs that trigger it. You got this!
(Do you have a clingy child? How do you deal with him/her? Do let me know in the comments below. It helps to share views and insights. If you found the post helpful, please remember to share it with other parents in your network to help them too. For more such posts, follow me on social media or subscribe to the blog to receive weekly updates by email.