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Clings to Parent

"My son is sensitive and shy around other people, adults and children. When we're out in public, he spends most of his time clinging to my leg.
It's getting embarrassing for me...and I worry whether he's always going to be this way."

Why Does This Occur?

Some children are more sensitive to the world around them. They pick up more information. Small differences, slight changes, and new things (novelties) are more obvious.

At later ages, this sensitivity can be an advantage. But as toddlers, when the capacity to stop is still developing, some children can't easily tune out small differences, novelties and changes. . So their attention gets caught up and they get more distracted by the changing events around them.

To avoid being swept away by too much variety, they cling to familiar things: a favorite doll, an old blanket, and particularly a parent. In public, a parent's leg will do.

What Works:

When you go out in public, let your toddler bring along those security objects, those "clingables" that can substitute for you.
For now, take new things in smaller doses. Don't stay too long in that chaotic supermarket!
When your toddler does cling to you, be patient. Say for example, "There are a lot of new people and new noises here!" Your explanation helps your toddler understand that he or she is not afraid of particular objects, just their strangeness.
Remember that while much of the world is familiar to you, much of it is surprising and new to your toddler.

This message is important. It says your child is okay and the world is okay. But sometimes too many new things can feel overwhelming. Later on, this understanding supports your child's efforts to learn independent ways to manage new situations: hanging back until novelty fades a bit or taking on new situations one part at a time.

Your Temperament:

Curious (novelty-seeking) parents sometimes expect their toddler to be like them, so think something's "wrong" when their toddler clings in new situations. Nothing is wrong. Your toddler is just different from you.




[rev: 6/2014]

© 2013, The Preventive Ounce, a Non-profit organization