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After being away from us, my child became clingy!
Q: How do I get my 17-month-old daughter to stop crying and throwing fits? She has gone through lots of changes in the past month: spending 11 days away from us with her nana, and then with us on a 12-hour road trip to visit grandparents. She's still not in a routine. Her babysitter has been sick and so she's had to go to daycare. The first few days she was fine, but now she's clingy. What do I do?
Stephanie Columbia
A: I want you to pretend that you are your 17-month-old daughter. At this age, you have no understanding of time, so 11 days can seem like a year. In addition, you have no idea that Mom will return, even when she's gone for just a day. Seen from that perspective, you can understand why your absence was so stressful for your daughter.

Then, Mom returns, and you're so happy. In fact, you cling to her and cry when she's out of your sight because you don't want her to leave. All you want is your life to settle down so you can enjoy lots of time with Mom. But, the next thing you know, you're in the car for a total of 24 hours.

Finally, you're back home. It's familiar, but the babysitter you know so well is gone, and now you're in daycare with strangers. Can you appreciate what your daughter is feeling? Understand, I'm not being critical of you. But with the long trip, the absence of her babysitter and the new setting (daycare), she may be uneasy.

I hope this exercise helps you understand why your daughter has suddenly become difficult. The solution is for you to provide her with a stable home life where you're not gone for long periods of time, and where there's a daily routine she can count on. Once your daughter starts feeling secure, her behavior will improve.
Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist