Helping Your Baby Through the Clingy Phase

In the beginning of your child’s life, your importance as his mother is without parallel. You are the first love object and the pattern or model for all other love relations. It is you who feeds, comforts, loves, and in general, meets the needs of your baby.

When your baby is one, he has a difficult time seeing you as separate from himself. This attachment and bonding forms the later structure for security, good self-esteem, and ultimately individuation. It is important for this differentiation to proceed gradually so that your child is gently weaned into the more independent stage of the “terrible twos.”

Until that time, however, it is difficult for him to see himself as different from you. The important context of self-definition occurs as your child experiences the effects of his behavior in relation to you and your reactions. As he moves toward autonomy, he will engage in both mental and physical trial and error, both moving toward independence and returning to his sense of security – you, his mother.

Therefore, you must help him practice separateness. It is by rehearsing autonomy that your toddler gains a secure sense of self. This diminishes tension, and your child learns first to trust you, then to trust himself, and ultimately, to trust the world at large. This journey of self-discovery allows your child to see himself in an individual existence rather than as an extension of his primary parent.

Possession is one device that children use to show ownership of their caretaker. After all, if you are mine – I own you. It is at this point that your child may become clingy, and overly attached. Softly shifting him toward independence leads to a feeling of success. If your toddler continues wanting you to carry him even though he is too heavy, it is important for you to employ strategies that encourage independence.

It is important to approach this sensitive stage with empathy, compassion, and love. This approach will also keep your nerves intact as you avoid collisions with the tender heart of your baby. Never order or demand separation. This can only lead to your child’s over-investment in holding on.

Every parent recognizes the beginning and mounting pitch of a tantrum. Childproof your reactions by channeling your child’s feelings in the direction of your desire. Make a game out of walking. Change the subject, if he begins to complain. Change the environment if he focuses on a specific space and, in general, remember that he is the baby. Don’t get involved in arguing. This can only raise the pitch to an untenable zone, and back you into the corner of no return.

Keep a light heart, a playful attitude, and think in terms of distraction when encountering your young child at this stage.