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"There's a reason kids are clingy right now"

Discussion in 'Personal' started by monicabilongame, May 22, 2020.

  1. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Might be useful info for some


    It is a strange aspect of parenting during the coronavirus pandemic that you can spend so (soooo) many hours with your kids during the week, and they can still be hungry for more of your time and attention.

    But many parents are dealing with clingy kids right now and wondering how they’ll keep it together when things reopen — whenever and however that happens in their area. Here’s the 411 on kids and clinginess, and how to cope.

    Kids cling because they’re looking to feel safe.
    One major reason why kids cling to their parents is because they are trying really hard to help themselves feel safe and comforted, explained Steven Meyers, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Illinois.

    “Clinginess is an instinctual response to perceived threat and anxiety. In evolutionary terms, offspring of all species are more likely to survive if they stay close to their parents for protection when danger is imminent,” he told HuffPost. “Children have this encoded into their biology, and it can be triggered by the stresses and uncertainties of a global pandemic.”

    Clinging, then, is the visible manifestation of your child’s effort to cope with all of the changes and the uncertainty in their world right now.

    To help, try to dig into the specific source (or sources) of their unease.

    “The question becomes, what exactly are they anxious about? Contracting the illness? Death? Like so many things, clinginess should be understood in context,” Mark Reinecke, a clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Child Mind Institute’s San Francisco Bay Area center, told HuffPost.

    Older kids might also regress into some clinginess right now.
    Clinginess can be a developmental phase for babies, toddlers and preschoolers — and it is absolutely “age-typical” for younger children, Meyers said.

    But these days parents of older children might also have kids who are hanging on to them, and the experts say that kind of regression isn’t necessarily surprising. So your 9-year-old who used to be pretty adept at independent play might be following you around the house all day like a shadow. Or you might suddenly find your tween or teen wants to crawl into bed and cuddle at night.

    “Older children may regress under acute stress and act in ways that aren’t as common for their current age,” Meyers said. “This regression is a threat-based response to increase perceived safety, receive comfort and reduce anxiety.”

    If you have any concerns about an older child who seems to be especially clingy or regressing in a way that’s giving you pause, all three experts interviewed for this article emphasized the importance of talking to their pediatrician or a mental health professional.

    Keeping routines is essential.
    Probably the last advice that any parent wants to hear right now is that establishing routines is important. Whatever enthusiasm parents had for creating daily schedules way back when school was first canceled is, for so many burnt-out mothers and fathers, long gone.

    But experts say that creating daily routines goes way deeper than keeping your kid on track academically; it’s about giving them an underlying sense of security that is very important right now.

    “Many children have become more clingy towards their parents [because] they have fewer avenues to socialize with others.”

    - Steven Meyers, professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Illinois
    “Routines provide kids with the structure and expectations about what happens during the day,” said Jenny Yip, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist.

    “It can be a flexible, relaxed schedule,” she added, just something that gives them kind of an emotional home base to return to.

    One strategy for vanquishing — or at least reducing — clinginess is to make sure those daily routines and schedules include stretches of uninterrupted kid/parent time. Play a board game together, Yip said. Sit down and build or read a book. Giving them your undivided attention for a bit can fill them up emotionally so they’re less likely to hang on you during other stretches on the schedule.

    It’s also worth noting that if kids have some level of routine in place, the shift back to life outside the house won’t necessarily be as jarring or feel as dramatic. So to try to get ahead of separation anxiety in the fall (or whenever school resumes), try to stick with some level of daily scheduling throughout the summer, Yip recommended.

    Try your best to model calmness and confidence.
    Kids are remarkably (perhaps annoyingly) perceptive. So even if you’re doing your best to keep them away from too much news or maintaining some level of routine at home, they might be picking up on other emotions from you that are making them uneasy. In turn, they might cling to you even more, looking for reassurance.

    So just check in with yourself and your partner about the kinds of messages you’re putting out there. Experts aren’t saying you can’t or shouldn’t acknowledge how hard this all is, but you should be really mindful of how much fear or anxiety they can feel coming from you. That will also help set them up for an eventual return to school or day care or a one-on-one provider, because it will ground them in some level of confidence that you’re not going to put them in an unsafe position.

    “In ambiguous situations, young children turn to their parents for guidelines on how to respond,” Reinecke said. “If the parent is confident and self-assured, the child will perceive this. Is the child’s anxiety inadvertently being modeled or maintained at home?”

    And remember, you’re all they’ve got right now.
    Many kids are really sad about all of the changes they’ve experienced in the past few months — no school, no friends, no sports or music classes, none of the routines and socializing they’re used to. Sure, they have Zoom or whatever their chosen video conferencing platform is, but it’s not the same thing. As far as in-person support and attention, you’re really all they’ve got.

    “Many children have become more clingy towards their parents [because] they have fewer avenues to socialize with others,” Meyers said. “People provide us all with connection and stimulation, and there are few options when we’re stuck at home.”
  2. DrLinus

    DrLinus Established commenter

    What is a 411?
  3. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    American internet slang for "information" .
    agathamorse likes this.
  4. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Thank you for the interesting article..
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, we need to feel for them and do some bonding stuff despite them glaring and huffing throughout.
    Got it.
    Now can we please have an article for the kids to read to explain why their parents might be narked and exhausted due to a huge increase of never ending and insurmountable domestic chores and a proportionately minimal contribution from those who create them.
  5. DrLinus

    DrLinus Established commenter

    I suppose this sort of thing is why I do not read that particular organ.
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  6. DrLinus

    DrLinus Established commenter

    If children are experiencing separation anxiety more keenly in recent years then it is probably because those in authority are frequently telling them that everyone they love and know are going to die from a compendium of disasters before they have had many more birthdays.
    monicabilongame likes this.
  7. Aquamarina1234

    Aquamarina1234 Star commenter

    Be the adult.
  8. abwdSTEM

    abwdSTEM Occasional commenter

    Its a small Porsche :D
    nomad likes this.
  9. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    I am quite emphatically the adult, thank you.
    My point is that it is fine spending huge effort deferring to our kids' anxieties but there's a fine line; you can suddenly find yourself telling your kid it's their turn to do the dishes and they point blank refuse because "it makes me too anxious".
    Being the adult does not have to entail being the kitchen slave.
    The article suggests a reverance and ranking of chidren's needs when the reality is that a family household has to function by everybody's needs and responsibilities being met.
    The article does not suggest much about responsibilities.
    And assumes we don't consider the psyche of our kids unless given a framework for it.

    On another note, I'm pretty sure that donning a pinny and bowing backwards out of the room for six hours every day in order to service the mess our kids make started to lose popularity quite a few decades ago. Telling me to be the adult when I have grumbled that the household division of labour during lockdown is unfair is...old school oppressive. Be the adult. Tidy up after them and then tell them how much you feel sorry for their woes.
    I don't think so.
  10. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    Thing is that there is a LOT of anxiety around at the moment, whether it's being consciously registered or not. Mental health problems are on the up and I anticipate a lot more work / a lot more clients once this is as 'over' as it is going to be. Adults' anxiety rubs off onto children, who have even less control over their environment and lives than do adults, and are going to respond in retrogressive ways (as indeed will many adults at this time). It's all rather sh*te and at the very least, some understanding of how and why people/children are reacting in the ways they are is surely helpful.

    Or maybe not, if everything is still all about you!
    agathamorse and nomad like this.
  11. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Actually, in the past, the kids did it for the adults. Washing, chopping up wood, babysitting...the idea of a parent doing their child's homework for them, or making a separate meal to suit the child...no way, pre-eighties :)
    monicabilongame likes this.

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