How To Handle A Super Clingy Kid

It's completely normal for children to get clingy. Your job is to help them work that securely.

daughter bothering mother while mother holds her Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock

Being a parent is amazing, but let's be real, we all need our space sometimes. And dealing with a kid who's always in your face can be suffocating and maddening.

After a while, it's only natural that you would snap. Feeling unheard and overstimulated will cause any adult to go insane. However, snapping will not resolve your child's clingy behavior. So, what can you do?

Please don't ignore your child as it will only worsen their clingy behavior. Instead, here are six steps from attachment therapist Eli Harwood that can help you better handle your clingy child.

@attachmentnerd It’s developmentally normal for kids to cling to their parents and caregivers when separating or facing new situations. This is particularly true for children who are wired to be highly sensitive.When this happens it can feel triggering to us as parents. Maybe we are late for work or we are worried about our child (or us) being judged in some way for having this emotional response.Being triggered might lead us to want to shut down our child’s emotions or push our child away to encourage independence.Unfortunately that usually only escalates their terror and clinging or damages their trust in us as a safe haven for them to run to in distress. So what can we do?1. Remember what it feels like to be that scared and offer our children the empathy and understanding we would want in a moment of panic and clinging. 2. Calm our own bodies so they can borrow calmness and grounding from our emotional state. 3. Hold them and squeeze back instead of pushing them away or prying them off us. 4.Wait until they have calmed in our arms to use logic or problem solving (connect before we direct)5. Help our child shift their needs to another caregiver or shift their attention to something they enjoy or care about.We want our children to know that we care about what they feel and are capable of helping them feel secure with us. It takes more time but it also builds more trust and long term security and confidence for our child and our relationship with them.Love on.#attachment #securelyattached #parenting ♬ original sound - Eli Harwood

How To Handle A Super Clingy Kid

1. Empathize with them.

The most effective way to calm a clingy child is to empathize with them. Get down at their eye level and gently pat their back.


Understand where their fears might be stemming from. Are they feeling overstimulated? Are they nervous around the other children at daycare?

Once you understand their fear, address it directly. Acknowledge their feelings and don't downplay them.

Say, "I understand you're feeling nervous. This is your first day of daycare and you don't know everyone."

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2. Get calm together.

After you've acknowledged their fear, it's time to get their bodies to relax. Again, get down to their eye level and invite them closer. Try doing deep breathing exercises together.


For instance, try incorporating animal-based breathing techniques into these types of situations. The Children's Bureau of Southern California advises you to inhale with your child through the nose.

Hold your breath for one second and then breathe out while making hissing noises, similar to a snake.

3. Hold the boundary.

Once you've calmed your child, it's important to maintain your boundaries. They can't skip daycare or school just because they have attachment issues.

So, reiterate that they will be going to daycare or school. Understandably, this will upset your child because they don't feel comfortable going.

However, keep co-regulating and make sure you problem-solve next.


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4. Co-regulate while problem solving.

Continue to co-regulate with your child when they start getting upset. Keeping them in a calm state of mind is key to improving their behavior.

After they've calmed down try saying, "Let's figure out a plan where you can feel safe and I can do what I have to do."


Then offer your child two suggestions. Say, "Would it be helpful if someone held your hand today at daycare? Or would you prefer to bring one of your stuffed animals to keep you company?"

By offering suggestions and working through the problem with your child, you can help them feel more in control of the situation, which will ease their mind.

5. Transfer focus or care.

Afterward, let the person know what your child needs. For example say, "Hey, my kid's feeling a bit overwhelmed today. Could you hang with them for a bit before they go play outside?"

When everyone is on the same page it's easier to address and work through those concerns together.


6. Leave.

Lastly, if you're leaving your child, say goodbye and let them know you'll see them soon.

Give them plenty of hugs and kisses before you go, and emphasize that you'll be right back.

Remember, your child needs reassurance, and taking a few minutes out of your day to reassure them can make the day a lot easier.


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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.