This one's for you...
Having a Velcro child can be emotionally exhausting or even downright irritating at times.
But here’s the thing…your child isn’t trying to be “clingy.” They are probably experiencing separation anxiety.
Although it can be challenging for you and your child, separation anxiety is actually a very common and natural part of child development — and there are ways to overcome it.
First, let’s ditch the word “clingy.” Separation anxiety is a natural part of development and shouldn't be stigmatized. It's also a sign that a child has developed a healthy attachment to their caregivers.
There’s a few reasons why separation anxiety can occur:
Brain development: Children may not yet understand that when someone leaves, they will come back.
New environments: Newness can feel overwhelming, making the familiar more appealing.
Previous trauma: Previous experiences with separation can contribute to heightened anxiety.
Good new is, this too shall pass. Here are a few ways to support your child with this difficult feeling in the meantime:
#1 - Use gradual transitions.
Introducing children to new settings requires a gradual approach for anxiety. Begin with preview visits & short initial stays. Gradually extend the duration, adjusting for the child's comfort. Discuss their experiences, use familiar items for solace, & celebrate milestones to ease transitions, making unfamiliar places less daunting.
#2 - Keep goodbyes brief.
While it's natural for caregivers to want to comfort their child for as long as possible, especially when they're displaying signs of distress, a swift and upbeat goodbye is often more beneficial in the long run. It supports the child's emotional well-being & helps in fostering independence & confidence in new environments.
#3 - Allow familiar items.
Familiar items are more than just physical objects; they're imbued with memories, feelings, & associations that can be deeply reassuring for children. Especially in settings where they might feel out of their depth, these items act as silent yet powerful allies, offering solace & grounding.
#4 - Discuss feelings.
Discussing feelings & validating emotions are pivotal in nurturing a child's emotional health & resilience. By recognizing & addressing these emotions, it not only strengthens the bond between the child &caregiver but also equips the child with essential tools to face emotional challenges with confidence, understanding, & maturity.
With patience, persistence, & a whole lot of love, most children will naturally overcome their separation anxiety.
Disclaimer: The internet is not a substitute for therapy, & I'm not a licensed therapist. For persistent separation anxiety in your child, please seek guidance from a qualified mental health professional.
Looking for more support raising resilient, emotionally-intelligent children?
Check out The Calm Kid Bundle (PDF), over 200 pages of social-emotional learning tools designed to help children learn and practice mindfulness, positive self-talk, coping skills, conflict resolution, and MORE.
Start instilling empathy and a growth mindset in your children today for only $34.99. Use code CALM20 for 20% off!
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kagan, J., & Snidman, N. (2004). The long shadow of temperament. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Piaget, J. (1954). The construction of reality in the child. New York: Basic Books.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child's developing mind. New York: Delacorte Press.
Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Viking.