This picture pretty much represents my life at the moment with Summer, in the last 6 weeks I've seen her go from a content, independent and happy baby that would go to anyone with out a fuss and didn't mind being put down and left for a minute with some toys to play with to a screaming, miserable clingy baby that holds on to me so tightly that I actually have nail marks on my arms.
It started at around 14 months old while we were away on holiday so I initially put it down to the fact that we were in an unfamiliar place plus she had a cold at the time. I thought that when we got home she would return back to normal but no such luck and now 6 weeks on I'm ready to peel her off me, run away and never come back.
I've found the last few weeks incredibly hard to cope with, I'm normally a very laid back person and I have a lot of patience with the kids but as the weeks have gone by my patience has been wearing thin and I've found myself snapping at both Riley and Summer over practically nothing. Don't get me wrong it's great to feel needed and I love that both of my children tend to favour me most of the time but sometimes it just get's too much.
Summer won't allow my husband to do anything for her and that basically means he can't help me at all, obviously there's the option to just hand her over and let her cry until she gets over it but a) I can't bear to see her so upset and b) she doesn't get over it.
I'm the kind of person who needs some space, some time alone to just think and breathe and having Summer constantly clinging to me has actually made me feel quite claustrophobic at times, I spend my days counting down to her nap time and bed time so I can actually eat and go to the toilet without her screaming and clawing at me and I feel awful for feeling that way, I should be enjoying my beautiful girl not looking forward to getting away from her.
I've also noticed that her behavior is having an effect on my 3 year old son Riley, he's craving my attention and because I'm so overwhelmed with Summer I can't give him any at the moment so he has started to cry about things that he normally wouldn't cry about and carry on crying for an excessive amount of time (30-45 mins) I think he's doing this because he sees that Summer crying is getting my attention and is giving it a go himself. The fact that it's clearly upsetting Riley is also making me feel awful.
I've done a bit of research online and I've found out that it's completely normal for toddlers to suffer with separation anxiety at Summer's age and it will ease over time. It's actually a sign that you have a good relationship with your child as they trust you and feel safe and reassured with you, which makes me feel better.
So how do you cope with a clingy toddler while the phase runs it's course, here's a few tips that have helped me over the last few weeks.
- Remember that this phase is completely normal and that as tough as it is right now it will get better with time.
- Try to continue to leave them with family members or take them to day care as you normally would, it may be really hard to leave them while they're screaming and holding their hands out for you but as my mum told me as soon as I walked out of the door Summer stopped crying and was absolutely fine without me.
- If you are leaving them with someone else to look after them while you go out try to keep goodbyes short as the longer you take to leave them the more upset they will get.
- If it all gets too much and you feel like you need a break but there's nobody around to help put your toddler somewhere safe and just have 5 minutes to breathe and calm down. An example of this was when Summer was screaming and even me holding her wasn't enough for her I got to a point where I couldn't handle anymore and I could feel myself getting annoyed with her so I took her up to her room and popped her in her cot where I knew she'd be safe, I went downstairs where I couldn't hear her and just sat for a few minutes to clear my head and calm down. After 5 minutes I went back up to get her and she had calmed down and was happily playing in her cot, I think we both just needed a time out.
- If possible try to have a night or two off from them, a welcome break for me recently was a trip to London for BritMums Live. I was away for 2 nights and really enjoyed having some much needed me time and when I got back my husband said that Summer had been fine and not at all clingy, although as soon as she saw me she became clingy again but because I'd had a break I found it much easier to cope with.
After almost two months of full on clingyness Summer seems to be getting better (touch wood) and she'll hopefully be back to her happy and content self soon. If you're going through something similar with your little one at the moment I'd love to hear from you and hopefully this post has helped a few of you.