How to Encourage Your Child Stop Clinging

As your child develops during the early years, he gradually establishes his independence. For instance, he can do much more for himself at the age of four years than he could a year earlier. But your child still needs you for support no matter how independent he has become, and there will be times he clings tightly to you. Parents are often surprised to see their apparently independent child suddenly become clingy, usually when faced with a difficult or new situation. This clinginess is normal—it is a healthy sign of your child’s strong relationship with you. Your child clings to you because he feels insecure and he knows that hugging you closely makes him feel safe.

Your child might be clingy in the following typical situations:

  • Meeting a stranger. Even though you know this person very well, your child may be overcome with shyness and try to hide behind you.

  • Going to a party. Despite your child’s excitement, the moment of leaving you to enter the party can be daunting for him— as a result, he grips your hand.
  • Starting school. This is a big step for a growing child, and he may be very clingy on the first day, even though he also looks forward to it.
  • Separating from you. Any temporary separation (such as stay­ing with a baby sitter, attending an activity class, or going to nursery school or playgroup) may be difficult for your child.
  • Experiencing something new. Even a very confident child can crumble emotionally when faced with something new (such as a toy or a game), and he’ll turn to you in his distress.
  • Fighting with a friend. Friendships during the early years are volatile, frequently changing. This can make a child feel inse­cure and anxious, reluctant to let go of his parent.

Although it is normal for your child to be clingy at times, you should still encourage him to become independent. Your reassurance is very important – remember that he clings to you because he is insecure, so any reassurance you give will be help­ful. Don’t make fun of your child; suggesting that he is acting like a baby will decrease his confidence further. Instead, try to be supportive; encourage your child to persist with the event that is troubling him; remind him that he will manage; and make a big fuss over him when he does cope without being clingy. Of course, some children are by nature more clingy than others—these individual differences are perfectly normal.

You should be concerned, however, if your child’s clinginess suddenly becomes very extreme (for instance, if your four-year-old clings to you desperately even though you simply want to go into another room for a moment to get a magazine). You should also be concerned when such behavior persists long after you have expected the clingy phase to have passed (for instance, when your child still sobs constantly for you while at preschool, even though all the other children have long since settled). In these circumstances, look closely at your child’s life to identify something that could be troubling him. Once that is sorted, you’ll probably find he is less clingy once again.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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