I’m sure you’ve seen countless memes on your news feed, of frazzled mums doing a gazillion house chores with a clingy toddler in tow. The caption probably read something along the lines of, “Women can do everything a man does – with one hand”. It’s funny until you’re that Mum.
I’ve certainly been going through a lot of that with my toddler. We seem to have reached a stage where she can’t bear being in the same room with me without wanting me to carry her.
“Please Mummy! Up! Up Mummy! PLEASE!” I look at my toddler in frustration during these moments. The only positive thought I get from it is at least she remembers to say please.
If this is what you’re going through, you’re not alone Mama! It’s the pick me up phase. Yep! It’s a thing. And it can last for weeks, or months. So brace yourself.
Apparently, this is very normal. Toddlers go through an over-attachment phase with adults they trust. So there’s the good news: your little person trusts you and you’re literally their world!
Here’s What Triggers The Need For Attachment:
- New places
- New people
- New activities or a change in activity
- Sensing your discomfort
- Anticipating that you are about to leave
- They’re tired
- They feel unwell
- They need information
These little superhumans can read a situation, they can think ahead. They know that you putting on makeup means they’ll soon have to say goodbye to you and they can’t handle it. They can sense when you’re not okay and it makes them feel anxious too.
How To Respond Well To A Clingy Toddler
Let’s face it – it’s impossible to do anything with a heavy toddler on your hip. Even if you’re a baby wearer like me, it soon wears you out by the time you’re done with chores. So here are a few things that have helped me.
It takes consistency and all the patience you can muster, but some of these have really worked for me:
Get to your toddler’s eye level. Explain what’s happening or about to happen. For example, “Mummy’s going to the shops to buy food and will be right back”. And you must be right back because they need to know you mean what you say, and they can trust you.
Change the subject matter and occupy their attention. For example, we always have a big meltdown when I have to make supper. So we go into the kitchen together and when she cries for me to pick her up, I “surprise her”. She gets a pot, a spoon, and dry beans to play “cooking” and I tell her it’s time for mummy to cook. Everyone’s happy.
Give a heads up when meeting new people or introducing new places. Simply saying, we’re going to the Doctor, “Do you remember Doctor Brown Bear in Peppa Pig? He asked George to say Aaah! Can you say ahh?” We get a good laugh about her favorite cartoon and it helps her know what to expect. Well, at least in part. We all know the Doctor visit isn’t always THAT fun.
Give lots of praise for independent behaviour. This will help reinforce good behavior. Give praise for even the littlest achievements like wiping a spill or trying to put on shoes. Even showing a toddler you like it when they play by themselves boosts their self-confidence and lets them know they don’t only get your attention when they throw tantrums.
Put away the phone for some one-on-one for a length of time you can afford. And just let them know for this time they have your undivided attention. When they’re happy, they’ll just walk off and happily play by themselves. They just want to check in with you – their favorite person!
Please don’t lie to your toddler. This really breeds trust issues with your toddler and may prolong the clingy phase. You know what I mean, “Mummy’s going to the bathroom.” Then, poof, you are gone for an entire day.
Shame your toddler. It doesn’t help to shout and shame a child who wants reassurance and connection. It just reinforces the suspicion that they can’t really trust you as a safe adult.
Don’t give in to carrying easily. It’s ok to give reassuring hugs. But try to encourage independence and build trust with your toddler before giving in.
This Too Shall Pass
Remember this is a phase like any other. Responding to your clingy toddler with calm and reassurance helps them navigate this phase. It gives them the tools they need to go on and explore the world with full confidence that you will be there when it gets scary or when they get hurt or just to be a comfort. They won’t be clingy forever and you can never spoil them by responding genuinely to their needs.
Think about what you would’ve taught them by the time this phase is over: Would they have learned to trust you? Would they have gained confidence that they can grow and explore on their own because you’re there as their fallback? When you look at it – it’s a really sweet thing that another human being feels that you’re exactly what they need to make it in this all-new and exciting adventure called life.
Keep This In Mind
With the ongoing pandemic, there’ve been major changes and challenges in family life. Toddlers can sense it. They might be trying to keep it together and are anxious too. Learning to deal with big emotions.
They need all the information and reassurance they can get that you’re going to be okay, and in turn, they will be too.
While you’re keeping your little superhumans safe at home, remember to stay hydrated and do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. A little gratefulness goes a long way in this season.
Follow my vlog, @Mosalagae, as I navigate the Mompreneur life and explore all things lifestyle, family, creativity and spirituality.