Even the most independent little toddler sometimes gets clingy. Although your toddler should develop some independence by age 2, some kids don’t take well to separating from a parent. Nemours notes that generally, at age 1 1/2, toddlers become anxious when one or both parents leave them. However, every child is different -- and a variety of factors can cause separation anxiety. The good news is that there are ways you can help ease your little one’s fears.
Pay attention to what’s happening around your child on days when he seems reluctant to leave your side. Not feeling well could make the thought of leaving you more difficult for your toddler. Becoming clingy is often a sign that a child is sick. Likewise, when you leave your toddler in the care of others more often than usual, he might just need more of your time to get him over the hump. The arrival of a new sibling in the household can also trigger a child’s fear of being separated from his parents. Spending extra time each day just holding and cuddling your little one might be enough to give him the reassurance he craves.
Showing your toddler that she can depend on grownups other than yourself can help make your leaving her less traumatic. She needs to know that a grandparent or other familiar caregiver will take care of her when you aren’t there. Whether you simply exit the room or go to work, you want your child to feel safe whenever you have to leave her. But don't forget that your child's temperament affects how she takes to separation, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Some kids just get more anxious at the thought of their parents leaving. No matter how well you try to prepare your toddler for separation, she might simply be clingier than other children the same age.
Extended Separation Anxiety
Although the clingy stage in a child’s development usually passes quickly, for some kids, separation anxiety lasts into the school-age years. On the other end of the spectrum, there are toddlers who never get bothered when their parents leave their sides. In cases where separation anxiety continues once a child begins attending preschool, KidsHealth.com suggests that it might be time to talk to your child’s pediatrician. If your child isn’t eating or has trouble sleeping, these signs could indicate that there’s something more than the normal separation anxiety going on. Your child could actually suffer from separation anxiety disorder, which might be serious enough to require treatment.
Sometimes it's the mom who has the most trouble with separation. By the time a child is 18-months old, he is becoming an individual in his own right. This is a period in his life when you need to encourage independence yet be there when he needs you. AskDrSears.com points out that it's often tough allowing your child to gradually separate from you, while still giving him the security he needs to confidently explore his world on his own.
- Nemours: Anxiety, Fears and Phobias
- KidsLife: Detaching Clingy Toddlers from Your Skirt or Trousers
- KidsHealth: Separation Anxiety
- AskDrSears: Helping a Toddler Ease Into Independence
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Easing the Separation Process for Infants, Toddlers and Families
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images