My daughter Aanya has been a very settled child right from the time she was a baby. She has been friendly, outgoing and mixes easily with people. She has always loved meeting new people and would never cry for us if someone took her away. She is the happiest child in her playgroup and didn’t cry even on the first day of school. In short she never showed any signs of separation anxiety much to my relief and sometimes disappointment (*doesn’t my baby love me enough*).
And then suddenly at the age of 2 and half years she started showing separation anxiety. Yes, at the age when the worst of anxious kids start settling, she became more and more clingy. It was so bad that if I went into the washroom for two minutes, she would start crying and asking me to “Pleaaase come”. She would come and check where I was every five minutes and go nuts if she could not find me. I realized there were many reasons to this behaviour. If your child shows sudden signs of separation anxiety, these might help.
Why sudden onset of clinginess?
I had gone to visit my parents and she was in new surroundings.
She had seen her father leaving for work in the car. She assumed he would come back in the evening like everyday but he did not. This could have caused some insecurity in her making her cling to me. This I feel was the key reason.
Your child may also show similar behaviour if there is a change of scene or new people have come into the scene.
What to do in case of extreme clinginess?
It is very easy to lose patience with a child who does not let you eat, drink, work or even visit the washroom, but that is the not solution to this. The key to this is being patient and helping the child feel secure.
Give the child lots of love and attention.
I made sure I was there with her at all times and was extra attentive about her needs. We must understand that a child in this situation wants to feel secure and you are the only one she can turn to, so she wants to make sure you are always around.
Do not sneak out
It may be tempting to sneak out for some time so you can run some errands without your baby tailing you, but this can only fuel the anxiety further. If you must leave her behind while you go out, then sit her down and tell her clearly that you must go out and will be back after lunch or when she is done napping or similar way to give her an estimate of time. Also try and stick to the promised time so that she trusts that you will be back at the designated hour when you need to go next time.
Find an activity she enjoys when you need to do something important
My daughter loves plants. So when I needed some time to myself, my parents used to take her out into the garden to water the plants which she loved. It was an activity she enjoyed and I could also get some work done so we were both happy.
These are my learning from my recent experience. Do share your experiences and tips on this topic.