I have two toddlers, a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old. I am also pregnant. Many of you have been there. I wish I were the kind of woman who loved being pregnant. But I don't. I love kids, and want to have more of them. Unfortunately this means I have to be pregnant for 9 months, much to my chagrin.
Now pregnancy sucks enough as is, in my opinion. Gaining weight, tender breasts, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and food aversions are bad enough. Add to that a child that is in a 'mommy-itis stage', that makes it unbearable at times.
My almost two-year-old started this about a month ago. My sweet, independent toddler now requires 'mommy' when he is sad, or tired, or hurt and is difficult to sooth by anybody else. He cries for me if I am around and begs to be picked up. He has no separation anxiety and no stranger anxiety at all. But when he knows I'm around, I am his choice, 100 per cent of the time. My shoulders are feeling it. My thumbs are feeling it. He isn't a small boy.
This is of course a completely normal stage of toddler development. And I have to admit that I love the cuddles and adoration I receive from him. But it is tiring. Sometimes after a long day of work I would appreciate him calling for daddy.
So what works? How do we tame this annoying behaviour? Here are a few tips:
1. Follow a consistent routine
I am not crazy about to-the-minute schedules for children. But a predictable routine can help. When my son knows daddy will be putting him to bed, he is OK with that. If I drop into the mix it throws him off. He never asks for me on nights he knows I am working in the hospital. He accepts that I am not there. If your child can expect when you'll be around, he or she may cling less.
2. Leaving shouldn't be a big deal
I find parents often make a big deal about leaving their child. They themselves are sad about it and the child feels the same. Separation is a drawn out, sad process. This leads the child to feel that separation is a bad thing. Try to come and go with no emotion. If your child thinks it isn't a big deal it will be easier. Predictability is great too. Let your toddler know when you'll be back. I say goodbye in the a.m. and tell my son I will be back for dinner. Then he doesn't stress all day that I am gone.
Toddlers are clingy and emotional sometimes. Often even. That's normal. So accept that your toddler will need more hugs and support some days. And enjoy it! I hear one day they stop wanting hugs!
4. Learn the art of distraction
This is a personal favourite of mine. When my kids are clingy and annoying I give them a brief hug and cuddle then change the focus. I'll say, "lets go read a book," or "what's that toy over there?" As long as you distract with enthusiasm this often breaks the mommy-itis cycle.
5. Encourage independent play
You can't expect your child to play independently without you if you don't foster it. Leave your child to play on his or her own (in a safe space) and watch from afar. The more you do it, the more it will be normal for your child. You may need to actively foster independence. You stifle that by interrupting this type of play.
6. Acknowledge feelings
Your child may be seeking comfort due to hunger, fatigue, sadness or frustration. Try to encourage your child to communicate as best he or she can what the issue is. Often clinginess is due to strong emotions your child doesn't have the language to express.
7. Pre-empt hunger and fatigue
Toddler clinginess and tantrums are often caused by hunger or fatigue. Try to get to know your child's signs of these and you may stave off these annoyances.
8. One-on-one time
We are distracted by a million things: work, finances, dinner, cleaning the house... When we are distracted our children know it and feed off it. Try to set aside quiet time every day (or once a week if that's all you have) to connect one-on-one with no distractions. Hard to do, but wickedly worth it.
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