For parents of clingy children, the idea of sending them back off to school, kinder or daycare this week may be filling them with much trepidation and anxiety.
Why are some kids clingy?
Around 9 months babies develop a normal separation anxiety, which can continue through to around 4 years. Often however, this continues well beyond those years and can become a frustrating element to the daily routine.
Some kids seem to have an inbuilt confidence and independence, allowing them to set forth with seemingly wild abandon, settling in to any new environment with ease. Others however clamour for their life wrapping their little arms around a leg , burying their tear stained faces into the folds of a mums skirt, who’s joy at feeling needed and loved is fast transforming into frustration and even anger as they struggle to ply away the clingy hands.
Clinging to mum or dad is a sign however that your child feels safe and secure with you and can therefore be seen as a positive. How we respond to that however can help give them the confidence to go and explore a little of the world with the reassurance that they will have that secure base to return to.
Things to remember about the clingy child and separation anxiety
- ‘Clingyness’ can be very normal for a baby and toddler, but can also be very common in the later years of childhood.
- Look first as to whether there is any specific event or reason as to why a child may be reluctant to leave you, such as bullying at school or a major upheaval on the home front.
- Try not to get frustrated, but rather remain calm and positive. Kids feed off our emotions so if they see that we are anxious or frustrated it doesn’t help them with their own fears.
- Be consistent so they know what to expect every time.
- Don’t sneak out of a classroom as this will only cause them to be extra clingy next time as they become more aware of your escape tactics. Instead, rather than long drawn out goodbyes, explain that you will be leaving now but will be back. Calmly give them a kiss and a cuddle and say goodbye (Try not to keep going back as this may confuse them more)
- Sometimes giving specific times or events can be helpful such as “I will be picking you up after sport or art class or snack time” so they have something more concrete to assure them.
- Alert the teacher beforehand if your feel it is becoming an issue so they know to keep an eye on the child and hopefully help to distract and settle them in.
- The stepladder approach is a technique that can be used if the anxiety continues and can also help with everyday fears.
- Remind yourself that it will not last forever. Whilst my boys may have had moments of separation anxiety and clinginess, as 13, 12 and 10 year olds, it has been a very long time since any of them have clung to my legs or feared leaving my presence!