Trying to tap out on an extremely clingy toddler

Discussion in 'The Toddler Years(1-3)' started by Feydruss, May 30, 2013.

  1. Feydruss

    Feydruss Active Member

    DS1 has always been more high-maintenance than DS2, and is very attached to me. He is what they might call a "spirited" child, very intense moods with high energy. We were doing better with bedtime separation and transitions until recently. But then we took a trip where we ended up co-sleeping each twin in separate bedrooms (me with DS1 and DH with DS2) for ten days and now that we're home WE ARE IN HELL. Unless seriously distracted by being at the park or something, it's like DS1 wants to climb back in the womb. It's not enough to sit beside me and read, he has to sit on top of me, practically French kissing me, one hand in my hair. He won't let go of me so I can go to the bathroom.

    Bedtime is the worst, and the other night I actually had to call out for someone to help me because DS1 basically had his thighs wrapped around my neck pinning me down on his bed so I wouldn't leave. It sounds ridiculous, but he's soooo strong and I simply couldn't get him off me. He begs and cries "more snuggle! more snuggle!" and I firmly say "enough snuggle, it's bedtime." But I literally have to pry him off me and make a run for the door and hope I can close it on him before he catches up. Then we'll get anywhere from 10min to 1hr of him beating on the door, sobbing and crying "Mummy! Muuuuuummmmmmyyyyyyy!" And then we go through the same thing in the middle of the night at least once, sometimes twice.

    Last night we really tried to let him CIO, but after him screaming from 3-4am, I went to him and from the hall I saw that his twin had woken up and even turned the light on in his room. The bottom line is that NOBODY is sleeping well, and I'm feeling incredibly anxious, angry, sad, demoralized, etc. This evening I actually had to leave the house and let somebody else put them to bed, because he's always worse when I'm around. He's hoarse during the day from these tantrums, and we're all exhausted.

    I should also point out that DS2 isn't exactly insouciant about the whole thing either. At bedtime he also gets clingy and needy, and then they're both crawling all over me sobbing for my attention and I find myself running between their separate rooms in shifts for story/soothe/cry/song/soothe/cry routines. They completely reject DH, who often isn't home due to work and travel, but then he feels like he shouldn't even bother coming home if nobody wants him here. So now I'm trying to helplessly juggle two toddlers pushing each other out of the way to get all up in my business, and a resentful DH who thinks he's just a paycheck, we all hate him, and that I'm turning the kids against him or something.

    Anybody have any experience with this kind of separation anxiety? I don't know what to do. I feel bad for DS2 who is getting shafted by DS1's domination of my attention, and I feel guilty for trying to detach DS1 all the time. And I don't know why he's doing it or how to get everyone to chill the hell out!
     
  2. Christel

    Christel Well-Known Member

    it looks like you might have everyone at a loss here! I thought that I had experienced clingy toddler, but i'm sorry to say, nothing like this!

    To be honest, my first inclination would be to leave for a week and let him readjust to dh being a caregiver. since that's probably not feasible, would it be crazy to put them back into the same room at night? it sounds like night is really difficult.. maybe he would get some comfort from not being alone. it doesn't sound as if separate rooms is really helping your other one sleep any better anyway. maybe it would calm things down and better sleep would probably help the situation all around.

    i'm going to suggest probably the last thing you want to do, but have you tried just completely smothering him in attention for a week? maybe if you just really concentrate on filling his attention need he will start to calm down some.

    also, I hate to ask but are you sure that there is nothing going on in his life he might be afraid of? it sounds like a bit beyond normal clinginess to me. if your insurance will cover, maybe a good idea to talk to a therapist and get some ideas. . .

    it looks like you might have everyone at a loss here! I thought that I had experienced clingy toddler, but i'm sorry to say, nothing like this!

    To be honest, my first inclination would be to leave for a week and let him readjust to dh being a caregiver. since that's probably not feasible, would it be crazy to put them back into the same room at night? it sounds like night is really difficult.. maybe he would get some comfort from not being alone. it doesn't sound as if separate rooms is really helping your other one sleep any better anyway. maybe it would calm things down and better sleep would probably help the situation all around.

    i'm going to suggest probably the last thing you want to do, but have you tried just completely smothering him in attention for a week? maybe if you just really concentrate on filling his attention need he will start to calm down some.

    also, I hate to ask but are you sure that there is nothing going on in his life he might be afraid of? it sounds like a bit beyond normal clinginess to me. if your insurance will cover, maybe a good idea to talk to a therapist and get some ideas. . .
     
  3. daisies

    daisies Well-Known Member

    My LOs are a year younger than yours so i maybe jumping in where i clearly know nothing but..

    I had a similar (but not as extreme) situation with DS (1yr) after a trip. What finally fixed improved the situation was the above suggestion. I started spending every spare minute with him on my lap, even to the point of trying to get him to stay (read one more book, snuggle, etc) when he was ready to go play. I think giving him the opportunity to leave me was empowering for him.

    Some other brainstorming ideas -
    -Can you really stress him being your helper during the day (doing 'jobs' together). This might allow him to feel connected without being 'on top of you'.
    -For a while, can you stay a little longer with him at bed time? He had you right there for 10 days he may need to ease back into going to sleep alone.
    -You might try a special bear for bed time. 'mommy has to sleep in her bed and you have to sleep in your bed but bear can stay with you all night long.'

    GL - I know how exhausting a clingy kids is.. and of course kid number 2 has to get in on the action!



    edited to strike fixed ;)
     
  4. mama_dragon

    mama_dragon Well-Known Member

    I have two cling-ons. They would both happily crawl back inside me at times. When they get really bad I have to stop and simply give in to their needs. I spend a lot of time sitting on the floor. The one who is having issues sits on me. I do not in anyway force him off of me. I let him have as much of me as he needs. He will eventually venture off and play near me. I stay on the floor. I do this for about a day or two. Then I will slowly start getting up and working nearby. If he wants me then I stop and I am right there for comfort. It is a bit of a pain but they have to get reset and not giving the 100% of my attention draws it out longer.

    My boys have co-slept in a family bed since they were 4 months old. You might just give in for a week and lay with him until he is a sleep. Do they same if he wakes in the night. Then gradually move back a bit each night. I lay with my boys until they are asleep and I am obviously there when they wake during the night. It works very well for us and we ALL get a lot more sleep. My one who has the hardest time lays with his hand up my sleeve and strokes my arm until he falls alseep. I have also found with him that scratching his back is a huge comfort and it relaxes him almost everytime.

    If this is a problem you might try a mattress or sleeping bag on the floor of your room. If he wakes in the night let him sleep next to your bed. Or just bring him to your bed. You would be surprised at the number of kids this age who end up in mom and dad's bed for part of the night.

    Unfortuntely it is not easy with a spirtied child. I have read that CIO for some spirited kids actually causes the problem to worsen a lot (Book called Raising your spirited child).

    The other thing I still do is I rock both of them every morning for as long as they want. This goes a long way to fulfilling the need for mommy contact. I used to also do the same when they were younger in the afternoon after lunch. I would sometimes read a story to them or just rock. Sometimes in the afternoon I turned on quiet music (mine stopped napping before age 2) and rock them. Eventually they get off and start to play.

    I would just go for a reset and spend as much time with him providing him with the physical contact he needs. It will hopefully lesson although you may have to repeat the process.

    Its tough. It has been very tough because I am simply not big on a lot of physical contact. I like my personal space. That has gone out the window with these two.
     
  5. mama_dragon

    mama_dragon Well-Known Member

    I also play a lot of physical contact games. Rough housing on the bed or floor. I can't really explain some of the games. But I will lay on my back and lift one to fly or I do "trash truck" where one is on my legs and I dump them off (I hold them and turn side ways dumping them to the bed). I make garbage truck noises. Any type of physical contact play like this seems to also help.

    And my boys did the same to their father and he tried not to let it bother him but it did. They would want me all the time and not him. It is a phase and it will improve. If possible you might leave them with him when he is home. Maybe one on one time. Take one with you and leave the other one at home. Then switch.
     
  6. FGMH

    FGMH Well-Known Member

    When we have a clingy phase I try to make myself available for as much snuggling and body contact uring the day as possible even if I feel "touched out" by the end of the day: Reading on my lap, sitting on the floor so they can play and keep in contact, body contact games like chasing them and hugging them firmly when they are caught, letting them catch and climb me and other games like the ones mama_dragon suggested.

    We have also gone back to co-sleeping in the needy phases either welcoming them back into our bed or sleeping on a mattress in their room.

    Dealing with the preference for mom is a hard one because it can make the father feel really left out, and the mor ehe feels left out the less fun he is to be around and the less the kids will want him. We have found that it is easier if dad is responsible on his own on a regular basis. For us, this happens automatically as I work late twice a week and DH picks them up from pre-school and handles dinner and bedtime on his own. But you could also have a regular night when you have an appointment that takes you out of the house (go for a run, to church, shopping, meet a friend - but make it a regular date on a day when your DH is typically at home) so they have no choice but to deal with dad - and dad needs to find a way to make dad's evening fun too. In our house dad's night means some pretty physical roughhousing (I am not fond of roughhousing and wild play in the evenings but DH and the kids enjoy it) and fun dinners (less cooking for DH and some kid favourites, and I cook healthy dinners for the rest of the week).

    If you think your DH might not like the idea that he has to work on his relationship with the kids if he is gone so much, try and make this about yourself, that you need a break and an hour or two to yourself once a week, and that taking over one evening or onw morning each weekend or wahtever you agree upon would be a great gift to you.
     
  7. Feydruss

    Feydruss Active Member

    Thanks, everyone! Things are slowly starting to improve. I've been trying very hard to restore some boundaries while still being loving and kind.

    ex. "Yes, I would love to sit and read a book with you, but sit BESIDE me on the couch, not on top of me, so I can see your handsome face while we read!"

    I've been doing some CIO at night, and it is working best when I start the evening with it instead of going in when he wakes up at midnight or so and then try to detach from that point. If I do CIO at actual bedtime (after lots of stories and snuggling and songs) then it's reducing. And when he wakes up again I don't respond at all, and after maybe 20min of crying and beating on the door he'll be out for the rest of the night. If I go in, then the rest of the night is gone. The other night he cried for three solid hours ("Mummy! Mummy!") and was hoarse the next day. That's not including the time I spent in and out of his room, upstairs and downstairs with him, pleading/bribing/threatening/soothing.

    What's hard for me is also trying to make sure that his twin isn't ignored either. It's hard to spend time with them one on one, but I try. It's important for DH to do that as well, but he needs to be present in order for that to happen.

    They just seem to be going through a really tough phase right now. They're not eating, sleeping, don't want their baths, etc. Sigh...
     
  8. JuliaS82

    JuliaS82 Active Member

    How are they doing on teeth? We have the same problems (to a lesser degree) when one of those dreaded molars comes in.

    DS in particular, has always been horrible with teething. I would immediately know that a tooth was coming in when all of a sudden he'd become SUPER clingy, whiny, picky eater, doesn't want a bath, and wants to sleep next to mama. Lately he's been working on his last molar, won't stay in his bed and cries randomly throughout the day. He and DD fall asleep next to me (He usually falls asleep in his own bed), and then we take them to their beds.

    I know it will only be short lived and we do what we can to lessen their teething pain. In the meantime, lots of extra cuddle time, I sit extra close to him at the dinner table, etc. This tooth is his last molar (yay!) and as it pops further out I am seeing slow improvement.
     
  9. Feydruss

    Feydruss Active Member

    Just to revisit this... no, they have all their teeth so it's not that. It seems to be a combination of separation anxiety, night terrors, and simply a Mummy love-in that they want. We were doing better then had a horrible week because one of them got into a bottle of medication and spent 12 hours in the ER. Lots of co-sleeping for observation and safety purposes last week, and now we're back to the protests.

    The really demoralizing thing is that they'll go to bed fine for anyone else. Babysitters, DH, whomever. But if I'm around it turns into a Wagner Ring cycle. I've got some friends who say "CIO with firm kindness and make sure they know what to expect at bedtime" and others who say "just co-sleep until they get over this phase." DH disapproves of the latter (ironically, he's a sleep specialist), but he's not the one trying to CIO every night.

    mama_dragon, it sounds like we have the same child. ;) I think CIO is not working for this spirited child, because it's just making him feel more intense emotions of insecurity and neediness. The problem is that he's a very light sleeper, so the second I try to inch away or make a move to leave he pops up like a jack-in-the-box with "more snuggle! MORE SNUGGLE!" And we'll go through this cycle for an hour or more.
     
  10. AmynTony

    AmynTony Well-Known Member

    what we did at bedtime with my son was to count to a specified number and then we left the room...it gave him a finite ending to bedtime, as well as teaching him numbers...
     
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