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It’s science: Why your child is extra clingy right now

What's that? Your child is literally climbing all over you? Yep, that's normal.

why is child clingy

It can be challenging to work from home under normal circumstances, but during these unusual times getting your work done can be even harder when our littles have finished their own "work." In our household, this looks like my kids climbing all over me. I like it and am annoyed at the same time and wonder, "What's going on?"

Turns out this parent-as-jungle-gym phenomenon is really a form of clinginess—or a bid for attention—where subconsciously your kids are asking for your care. It's a sign that your child considers you a secure base to come back to for extra support when they perceive something as scary or unpredictable (like COVID-19), whether it's a minor or a major shift in their life, or the sense that a parent is stressed.


Periodic clinginess is a sign that your child trusts you—that you're doing things right.

A clingy, climbing kid is normal. Evolution made them clingy as a matter of survival. "Back when our ancestors were climbing trees and jumping across rocks and escaping predators as hunter-gatherers, their babies and toddlers literally clung on to them for support and protection," explained University of Minnesota attachment researcher Alan Sroufe during an interview in Slate magazine. But these days, the threat is the unknown.

"Children are seeking predictability and control in a world that feels increasingly uncertain, and they're taking that out on their parents, which is—of course—understandable but also can be quite difficult," stated UCDavis developmental psychologist, Ross Thompson.

When routines and lives are disrupted, and kids are trying to find their new "normal," clinging and climbing all over you can be a way of seeking your attention and letting you know that things definitely aren't normal.

During times of uncertainty, having the energy to climb all over you can also be a sign that your kids need to calm and regulate their emotions to relieve their stress. "When children (and adults for that matter) are stressed, it's tremendously helpful to have them get out of their heads and into their bodies," explains Hershberg. So if clinginess translates into climbing all over you, research has demonstrated that this physical activity lowers their stress level and heart rate.

According to renowned researcher and clinician, Dr. John Gottman, this kind of behavior can also be "bids" for you to play with your kids to connect through shared laughter and experiences. But if you are touched out from all the climbing and clinging, and just too exhausted from managing your own stress and all the things, play might not be on your list of things to do—and that's okay, mama.

Here are 10 things your kids can do with their energy to lower stress instead:

  1. Push a vacuum
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Build a fort
  4. Make an obstacle course
  5. Do animal walks like the crab walk or lizard crawl (only hands)
  6. Crawl backwards using hands
  7. Commando crawl (no knees)
  8. Jumping jacks
  9. Dig in the dirt, garden or sandbox
  10. Push-ups

Most of all, it's important to allow yourself to have boundaries.

Teaching your kids that you have boundaries lets them know what you will tolerate—and helps them learn how to set their own boundaries in the future. According to parenting expert, Janet Lansbury, "Soft-hearted parents allow a child to climb all over them in my parent/infant class. The child is searching for limits and boundaries for his behavior. But moms and dads are often afraid to say, 'I don't want you to climb on me. You can sit with me. If you need to climb, there is a climbing structure over there.'"

As a parent, you make accommodations based on your kid's needs, but when those accommodations become too burdensome or invade your privacy, the cost outweighs the benefit. You can actually increase stress, rather than reduce it, which can potentially make the behavior even worse. So pay attention to how you are feeling, then meet your children's needs in ways that honor your own.

Bottom line: They're seeking your attention during a time of unknown. Responding to your kid's need for connection goes a long way to reassuring them that everything is going to be okay.

14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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