All babies like one-to-one human contact and attention. However, some young children refuse to be separated from their parents at all. Welcome to the world of clingy children. Kids you love to have; Kids you need to be away from; kids you sometime dislike to have around you. What an irony.
According to Adeola (not real name) her two (almost three) year old has some days when they are clingy, to the extent that she can't even step away to use the bathroom. The aim of all healthy child/parent relationships is to enable the child to form a secure attachment and to use this as the basis for ultimate independence. With this in mind, parents need to ensure that they are not unwittingly encouraging their child to be clingy because they enjoy feeling needed and wanted.
“I was lucky that I noticed the clingy stage early enough. I asked the paediatrician, and he said they start that between six months and nine months old. The worst part of the stage is supposed to end between twelve months and eighteen months. The best thing I could find was to distract them with something, then sneak away and wait for them to notice (if toys don't work, go with a bottle while they sit in the swing). Then return as soon as they notice and cry out. She seemed to learn that it was ok that I was gone because she knew I would come back if she cried. She had started with the clinginess at 9 months, and the worst of it ended after a month doing what I mention”
Clinginess is particularly marked at around eight or nine months, when the vast majority of babies will start to experience separation anxiety. At this age, a baby starts to notice if her main carer goes away, and she’ll become clingy and want to follow her. Until around two, a child has no concept of constancy: if the parent is not immediately visible, he or she simply doesn’t exist – hence the child’s distress if the parent leaves the room even for a brief period.
Hassanah had it differently, "my girl was the worst. Working from home didn’t help me at all. It seemed to last forever and I had to breast feed and I guess she didn’t want to be away from food too long. It can last for a few months. I had to eventually put her down or give her to daddy and it just finally went away it took a few weeks to get her to where she was; when she could play by herself and I could leave the room".
Some children are referred to as “High-Needs” babies. In this case separation anxiety comes to play. It is very different from true clinginess. Paediatricians refer to it as extreme clinginess. Such child becomes distraught if his parent tries to put him down even for a matter of minutes. Parents may wonder if their parenting is responsible, but it appears that some babies are born clingier than others. These "high needs" babies experience real distress if their need for physical attachment to their parents is not met.
Separation anxiety is part of normal childhood development, and shows that the baby has developed a healthy attachment to their main carer. Most babies will experience a degree of clinginess at some point; indeed, it’s both normal and highly desirable for babies to cling to their mothers. Newborns are dependent on close contact to help them adapt to the world. The mother’s heartbeat, rhythmic movements and respiration help to balance the baby’s irregular waking, sleeping and feeding rhythms, and the rhythm of her voice can help to regulate a new baby’s early un-coordinated body movements. Carrying can also help a baby to regulate his developing nervous and hormonal systems, and can promote day waking and night sleeping.
Parents of clingy children need to be especially sensitive and thoughtful. If the child is due to start nursery or at a childminder’s, make sure she has a special cuddle blanket or toy to take with her. Even the clingiest child will settle after the parents have left, and they will be pleased to be reunited with their parents at the end of the day. Changes and separations must be handled very gradually and with love. Goodbye and hello rituals can help to reassure a clingy child that their parents will come back.
Parents should also remember that reaching particular developmental milestones – physical, emotional and neurological – can make the world feel quite confusing to a baby or toddler, which means that he will cling to the person who makes him feel most secure and that should be YOU. Always pray to Allah (SWT) to make the entire parenting process easy for you. And don’t forget to pray for your child and the entire family too.
- By Maruff Adenekan
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