Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Are you finding your child is extra clingy at the moment?
Maybe they want to play with you endlessly but you are busy... and find it difficult, boring or hard.
During this time in lockdown due to COVID19 we are all displaying slightly different behaviours and feeling a need for some level of control in a world where we suddenly are left with none. This is actually how children feel a lot of the time in 'normal' life.
When your child asks you to ‘play’ they are actually asking you to be present. During play is the only time children have and feel real control and autonomy. When they ask you to play they want you to join them in their world where things are safe.
At the moment in particular, due to COVID19, children are feeling more clingy and insecure (think more toileting accidents, more wakefulness, inability to fall asleep at bedtime, more tantrums...). They may display this in lots of ways but one way is wanting to be near people at all times. Understandably this is hard, especially if you are trying to work from home. To help manage this here are some tips to help you:
1) Chunk out time- don’t have the expectation of yourself that you need to entertain your child 24/7 in order for them to be happy. A few short bursts of undivided time are much better than long stretches of your distracted attention.
2) Instead of trying to lead the play or direct it, let your child become the director.
Your job here is to narrate or ask questions rather than try and lead the play in a certain direction. “I can see you are feeding the dolly, what would you like me to do?”, “You are lining up your cars in a very long line, can I help you with anything?”
By narrating you are modelling some amazing language by describing what they are doing. This is helping them so much in developing their vocabulary and their ability to speak and explain themselves. After seeing you do this, they may start to learn to narrate their own play.
3) Give your child short bursts of your undivided attention doing something they want to do. You will be recharging them, resetting their emotional state and making them feel in control. Set boundaries if you don’t have lots of time “I am going to put my phone away and play with whatever you choose for 15 minutes”.
4) Think of activities you can set up nearby whatever you are doing. Sensory activities help children feel calm and will entertain them for long stretches of time. Eg. Washing up at the sink or in a bucket of water on a towel on the floor. Flour or oats in a tray with cups and spoons.
5) Think of ways you can make your child feel safe in different ways. In our house we have weekly letters from the fairies who are watching over the children and have moved in to our garden. We lay with the children as they fell asleep and co-slept for the first month of lockdown. You could make a little bed on your bedroom floor for your child to use if they wake in the night. Just knowing it is there will help their feelings of safety. Talk about how safe they are, not about how unsafe the world is.
6) Change up the environment. There is a saying in education that the environment is the third teacher. Have toys and items accessible in new ways. Make it inviting. Change it up every week. Put books in baskets in different rooms and take them outside. Prepare some sensory activities by putting dried pasta, flour, oats in different tuppaware or trays with lids to whip out when things get fraught. Use props when you read a story and leave that story and the prop(s) in a basket for the child to access in their independent play. Put new things out that they haven't played with in a while. Can your child see and access things?
Play really is the best and most beneficial way for children to learn. Adults sadly grow out of it and it often feels pointless or a waste of time. We often have other things to be getting on with I know. But right now, fill your child up with pockets of undivided play. Recharge their batteries, lower their cortisol, and get that connection. That is what they need right now and you will reap the benefits in the long term. Your child, over time will feel more relaxed, less clingy and more connected.