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severe separation anxiety

(13 Posts)
kissinggiraffe Wed 05-Nov-14 20:17:08

DD is 18 months and has always been high needs and clingy to me. She absolutely will not tolerate anyone else, OH included, doing anything for her. She screams if I leave a room or even go to the other end of a room still in sight!
She will only go to sleep holding my hand and wakes multiple times every night for no other reason than wanting to hold my hand. I can't even remember when this became a habit. I give her a teddy to hold instead but nothing works.
I cannot leave her, ever, because she becomes hysterical if I say "goodbye, Mummas going.....". If I sneak away without saying goodbye (which is almost impossible because she never let's me out of her sight) she is inconsolable until I get back.
I know it is healthy for a child to have a strong attachment to a primary caregiver but I really feel that her attachment to me is not good for her as she is constantly on edge and begging me to pick her up etc.
She rarely plays because she just wants to sit on me. The only time she does play is if I am sat on the floor with her.
She is very bright and articulate for her age and interacts well with adults and other children, strangers too. As long as I am holding her or she is touching me.
Her dad tries really hard to be involved but she just won't let him do anything.
We are feeling desperate to change this situation for her and for us.
Anyone have any tips or advice that might be useful??

glorious Thu 06-Nov-14 08:02:09

That sounds really difficult. Has she always been just the same or does it vary a bit over time? I know most DC are like this at times but it tends to be a phase.

My own DD is pretty clingy and, for example, is not at all keen on her hour or two with daddy when I have my weekend lie-in. But it's got better over time. I think it helped for her to just get used to it, but she wasn't ever hysterical so ploughing on may not be an option you want to take with your DD.

I've heard of people trying 'love bombing' in this kind of situation, I.e. really over doing affection and physical contact and praise at your instigation. No idea whether that might help.

I have no advice really but I just wanted to say that it sounds like you're doing brilliantly in a hard situation and that it will pass.

Jeggie Thu 06-Nov-14 08:48:33

That sounds really hard. I've had times like that with my dd now 3. Particularly difficult around 9m for us.

From what I know of attachment theory the fact she is so clingy is demonstrating that she doesn't have a secure attachment to you for whatever reason. She wants one and it sounds like she has high needs for it.

If you can meet those needs until she feels secure she will gain that trust and you will eventually be able to leave her with other caregivers.

The theory is that it's essential for a child to bond closely with one person (usually mum but not necessarily) first, then there is space for wider attachments with more people eg dad, grandparents, childcare. This first attachment with the main caregiver normally happens in the first year but not always. You don't mention any reason why she might not feel 100% secure yet, it can be from enforced separation (hospital treatment, parent having to go back to work), or maybe pnd making mum more emotionally distant and probably for no reason too, just because that's the way the child is!

Love bombing is one way. Another (quite similar really) is acceptance. Allowing her to have what she needs without any feeling of frustration (yours mainly!), without removing yourself or trying to get away. Sneaking away will only make it worse - better to say bye and accept her upset then come back quickly so she gets the hang that you always come back (after time).

It's really hard and you may not think it is something you can do. there are good resources out there for more info - attachment parenting uk, aha parenting etc will have lots on building a stronger attachment - the true meaning of attachment parenting - you don't have to babywear or breastfeed! Plenty of other ways to meet her needs.

Mama1980 Thu 06-Nov-14 09:01:02

Hi op, I'm not sure if this will be of any help my youngest dd is adopted she was placed in my care at birth (initially by sgo, concurrent planning etc) she is now nearly a year old and the behaviour you describe in your dd is similar to my dds.
She becomes hysterical if left even for a second, if she cannot touch me she panics. Given the unusual circumstances i have seen a clinical psychologist for professional advice, her take was that I should continue simply giving her what she needs, not pushing for space or independence as that would be counter productive.
She said such behaviour is either usually the result of insecure attachment or secure attachment to the primary carer but lack of the same to anyone else, so the child panics when her safety is removed.
I was advised to simply give her whatever she needs, and things will improve gradually, at her own pace.
I do sympathise I know how draining it can be, I haven't peed alone in a year blush
Apologies if none of that helps, it maybe different in your case, without the adoption f issues.

kissinggiraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 09:29:12

Thanks for the replies.
She has been like this from about 5 months, gradually getting worse and worse.
She was exclusively breastfed until she self weaned at just 9 months. We have also bed shared from around 6 months as it was the only way to get any sleep. If we go out I pop her in the sling because she will very rarely tolerate being in a pushchair.
I am a stay at home mum and only ever try to leave her with someone if I really have to - older DC parent evenings, doctors appointments etc. Never for more than an hour that I can think of and probably only 5 times ever.
I give her all the reassurance and time. I never try to push her away or on to anybody else. I just feel so desperately sorry for her as she is so distraught at the idea of me leaving her.
We will continue with what we are doing and hope it is just a phase (a long one) that she will come out the other side of.....

Jeggie Thu 06-Nov-14 10:00:22

Oh bless you. It sounds like you are doing everything you possibly can. I think it's probably a case of keep going, trust that she knows what she needs. Try not to worry about what other peoples kids are doing or able to cope with - they're all different. Your dd will come through this in time I'm sure. It's so hard waiting for that time but 18m is still very young. In 6m things may be very different... Or maybe when she hits 3... Not massively reassuring I know but she is unlikely to be like this forever if you continue meeting her needs.

If you are really worried you could try and get referred to a psychologist but as pp has done, but on the way you may meet some less than sympathetic gps and Hvs. You probably already have! There's a lot of the "they have to learn" out there. She will learn but IMO you don't need to do anything extra to force it.

Eastie77 Thu 06-Nov-14 10:00:49

All my sympathies OP as my DD was a bit like this, the main difference being that she was (and is) fine with my DP. However she went through what felt like a prolonged phase where she became very upset if I left the room, didn't want to play unlessI sat with her etc. It was truly exhausting and I wondered where I'd gone wrong.

I went back to work part time when she was around 10 months old and left her with a childminder twice a week. The first few sessions were hard as she screamed hysterically when I left and she was hard work for my very patient CM who couldn't put her down when they went out to stay and play etc. Gradually it got a lot better and she now goes willingly to the CM and is generally a lot more independent. I've noticed a sea change in her over the last few months whereby she will walk of and explore when we go to play activities whereas previously she clung to me and whimpered. She still has her moments and is still very, very wary around strangers - generally when visitors come to the house she remains glued to my lap - but she is now 17 months old and it feels as if things are getting better.

I really don't have much in the way of advice but can only say I am sure this is a phase that will pass eventually. I do think that placing my DD with the CM helped in the long run as she learned that mummy goes away but will come back in the end and has formed a secure attachment with another person. However I don't know if childcare for a few hours a week is an option for you (sorry not sure from your OP if she goes to nursery etc) or even the right thing to do at this stage as she is very anxious, it just seemed to me that I had to get my DD in a position where she realised she could be apart from me for a few hours a day. I wish you the very best of luck in riding this out.

LindsayS79 Thu 06-Nov-14 11:50:58

Oh OP I could have written your post word for word sad. My 16 month old is the same. All of a sudden she hates being in her high chair and it's just dawned on me that it's because she's not sitting on my knee!
I can't go to the loo, the kitchen etc. I'm seeing this as a (long) phase that we just have to get through. My mum said I was the same as a baby/toddler.
It's soul destroying at times especially when there are things that need done around the house etc so I just posted this in support xx

kissinggiraffe Thu 06-Nov-14 12:34:09

While I'm not glad some of you have similar children I am glad that it's not just my daughter!
I've been questioning all parenting decisions I've ever made with her. My family and OH's were anti breast feeding, anti baby wearing and anti bed sharing saying things like we would regret it, making a rod for our own back yada yada yada. And I was beginning to think they were right.
They now of course say I've made her this way and I just need to let her cry/ get over it or discipline her to make it stophmm I will not do any of those things. She is the most loving, affectionate little girl and I wouldn't change her for the world. It's just nice to know I haven't screwed her up by loving her too much.

glorious Thu 06-Nov-14 20:08:35

It's definitely not because you've done those things, I'm sure in fact that they've done her lots of good. Put another way then perhaps you'd have used the sling less and not bed shared if she hadn't needed it?

You are doing a great job and it's so so hard. I hope it improves for you soon.

LindsayS79 Thu 06-Nov-14 20:34:46

By loving her and being so close to her is going to make your DD all the more a secure adult!!
As I mentioned before, apparently I was clingy as a child. I spoke to my stepdad tonight and he said I was quite possessive over my mum up until I was about 7!! I must say I am a very independent adult and love my own company so I think my mum did ok by embracing my clinginess wink

Goldmandra Fri 07-Nov-14 12:12:26

You haven't made her this way and you won't help her by pushing her away or forcing her to manage without you. Some children are just like this.

My DD1 was like this, not because she had attachment difficulties but because, as we discovered years later, she has AS and the world was a scary place which caused her overwhelming fear and sensory overload. My presence and protection was the only thing that enabled her to cope.

I couldn't put her down or leave her with others either and when it happened out of necessity, it was traumatic for all concerned. She's now 17 and has just been to Spain on her own to stay with extended family who she barely knew so they do get over it smile

Carry on doing everything you are doing with one exception. Don't ever sneak away. It will just increase her fear of letting you out of her sight.

If you need to leave her, discuss what she will be doing beforehand with the person caring for her. When you are ready to leave her, tell her that she will be doing x, then y and, when she has finished y, you will be back. She may understand that principle now but, even if she doesn't, she will soon and it will help her. Once you have explained that you are leaving, give her a kiss and a hug, hand her over and leave quickly. Leave a top you have worn recently because the smell may comfort her and ask her to look after it for you until you return because this will help reassure her that you are going to return.

DIYandEatCake Fri 07-Nov-14 20:13:42

This sounds like my dd! At the same age she was just the same - on the very rare occasions I had to go anywhere without her, she'd be throwing herself against the door screaming as I left, and would scream hysterically non stop til I returned. It was truly awful. On holiday at 18m I clearly remember her climbing into a walk-in shower with me - she'd had to come in the bathroom while I showered, as usual, but even that wasn't close enough, she clambered in after me and then screamed because she was soaking wet confused you're not alone!
The good news is that although she is still a mummy's girl and still quite wary of strangers, at 3 she is a lot more independent. She started preschool happily this term and has settled in well - I could never ever have imagined that a year or two ago! She's been happy left with dp since about 2 - I think when she could talk well enough to make herself understood, and had the mental capacity to have some concept of time and when id be back.
It is really draining, you have my utmost sympathy!

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