Like any mama, I believe my daughter is the brightest, most outgoing and funniest toddler in the whole world. So, imagine my surprise when I traveled home for the holidays, expecting everyone to marvel at my parenting abilities, to instead be dealing with an extreme state of the clingies. She literally would not let me out of her sight! Even going to the bathroom without her was out of the question.
To all those who were witness to her desperate cries for “mum”, it would appear that I have created a monster. Advice started to come from all sides. Everyone who laid eyes on her had something to say, most commonly along the lines of, “she needs to learn ….(insert what my toddler needs to learn here)”.
My holiday became a battle of advice vs. what my instincts were telling me. Do I walk away and teach her that she is fine without me, or do I hold her just a little tighter until she gets used to the new environment.
So what did I do? I phoned a friend. Nadia from The Educated Parent had been working with children for years and is a Professor of Early Childhood Education with her Masters of Teaching. I figured she could give me a little guidance, so I’m sharing with you her list of tips should you come across a similar situation in your travels:
- Meet the child’s needs. They are being clingy for a reason. Perhaps they are feeling overwhelmed; most people get a little overwhelmed over the holidays, especially around larger groups. Respect their boundaries, listen to what they need, and the clingy-ness will pass sooner.
- This behaviour could also be a sign of the child’s temperament. Perhaps they are slow to warm to new situations. Regardless of the reason, the little person needs reassurance.
- Manage your expectations of what your child will be comfortable with in new situations. The parent, or parents, should be prepared to keep the little one close and not push them into uncomfortable situations (ex. “Don’t be shy, go say hi to Auntie.). Sometimes this may offend others, but your child’s comfort is most important and most people will be more understanding than you may have thought.
- It is helpful to prepare your child for what’s coming up. Involve them in your plans, telling them, “We are going to Grandma’s and there will be lots of people there who will be really excited to see you!”. It may be helpful to show your child photos of people, and tell them stories about each one.
- Talk to your child about how they might feel: “Sometimes when there are lots of people around, you might feel a little ______ and that is okay. I will always be nearby”. It really is okay for them to feel shy or overwhelmed, as everyone feels this way at times.
- Sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent night awakenings, or inadequate daytime naps, can contribute to a baby’s clinginess. If sleep issues persist or become a significant concern, consider consulting an Infant Sleep Professional with specialized training for guidance and advice on improving your baby’s sleep patterns.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but after hearing Nadia’s words I allowed myself to listen to my instincts and stay close to my daughter. If felt so much better to be with her and listen to what she needed, and by the end of the holiday she was happily sitting in her Grandma’s arms, with me close by of course. So, as the holiday season approaches and we are all thrust into large family gatherings or holiday trips, please try to remember that your little babies are in fact little people with real feelings which they may yet to be able to understand.
By Natasha Marchand, co-founder bebo mia inc.
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