|My toddler is 5 months old. I exposed him to going out from
day one and he was very contented and loved being around people.
For the past 3 weeks though, he has changed and cries whenever
he sees strangers or family he’s seen only a week ago,
he has become very clingy.
Your child is moving into the phase called "Stranger
Suspicion". As his thinking develops more, he is also
capable of more complex fears. During this "suspicious"
time, every grown-up, that isn’t Mommy or Daddy, can
be viewed as a threat… even a once accepted friend
or beloved grandparent. This fearful reaction may sometimes
embarrass you and upset others, but when you have a private
moment, explain to the adults that it will pass, and ask
them to be casual and ignore it. And in the meantime if
he wants to be held while strangers are about, do it…
for as long as he needs it.
If your son is generally becoming clingy here is some information.
Toddlers are torn between being dependent and being independent.
Between striking out alone, and staying safely by your side.
This ambivalence makes perfect sense. Your son enjoyed the
novelty of independence when he first started to see himself
as separate from you. Then the novelty wore off. It's quite
normal for toddlers to become uncertain about self-reliance
and the separation this brings from mother, and this prompts
them to reject independence at certain stages. If your son
is becoming clingy here are some tips to get him confident
about separating from you.
1. Reassure him that you will always be there. Some children
at this age are still worried when you are out of sight.
Play games that teach mommy permanence, even when mommy
cannot be seen. Play peek-a-boo. Duck behind a sofa, or
behind the door. Ask "Where's Mommy?" And then
poke out your smiling face. "Here I am!". Gradually
extend appearance time from a few seconds to half a minute
to a full minute or two. If the extended time appears upsetting,
speak from behind the sofa.. "Where did Mommy go?"
Where could Mommy be? Or sing "Where is mommy, where
did she go, where's your loving mommy, where could she be?"
to the tune of a nursery song.
2. Create an activity. Before you walk away, even to the
other side of the room, get him interested in an activity
that will occupy him. "Why don’t you piggy back
Tedddy around the kitchen, while I eat my breakfast?"
3. Keep contact. Talk occasionally, or reach out and pat
him on the head.
4. Stay patient. Don’t be annoyed by his clinginess.
Or react with pity "you poor baby, I'm right here".
Stay calm, and try not to react at all. Say "it's okay,
I'll be right back" calmly.
Come back with the same casualness. "Here I am again,
did you have fun? And don’t let clinginess stop you
from your work. Say calmly .. "I have to peel the potatoes,
or there wont be any lunch, I have to do the dishes or there
wont be any clean plates" and go about even with him
clinging to your legs.
5. If your toddler insists on following you around, don’t
reject him. His fear of being without you is a normal developmental
phase and with your love and support he will eventually
grow out of it.