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Gently encouraging a little bit more independence in almost 2yo - any tips??

(8 Posts)
Emeraldgirl2 Wed 07-Jan-15 13:43:16

DD will be 2 in March and is a very emotional and highly-strung little soul, albeit incredibly cheerful and happy most of the time

She is at home with me and is currently an only child but will be starting pre-school either this spring or in September if she's still not ready by spring, which I don't think she will be at all!!

She has always been the ultimate velcro child, chronic separation anxiety started at the age of about 5-6 months and lasted until she could walk at about 13m, she is still VERY separation sensitive though very happy to spend time alone with a small selection of trusted others - my mum and dad, my sister etc.

My parenting style has leaned v much towards the attachment end of the spectrum (not intentionally, and I didn't even know there was such a thing until DD arrived and I quickly learned that she and I are both happiest that way!) so I'm not at all keen to push any sort of false independence before she is ready, even though I am being advised to by well-meaning friends.

But with one eye on the pre-school situation coming up over the next few months, even if it's not until Sept, I really would like to begin to find ways to encourage DD into a bit more independence.

It's odd as she is VERY strong-willed and extremely independent about most things she wants to do (or not do) with me - she is a big fan of the word No and won't be pushed around, digs her heels in over many things, so I know she's got some real strength of character in there and a desire for independence on her own terms.

It's just that she is still very unhappy about me being more than a room away, and even that is sometimes too much, she comes and clings to my legs sometimes while I am trying to cook supper etc and demands to be held, she refuses to walk up or down stairs holding my hand, she has to be held, she would rather eat her meals sitting on my lap than in her booster seat etc.

She is smiley and confident with people as long as she doesn't think I'm going to leave her with them (my MIL, for example, with whom I've had to leave DD, unhappily, on a few occasions, just gets tears and begging for 'mama' to come back) and warily likes older children (she's not a fan of babies or smaller toddlers, for example, who she gets very upset about as she seems ot think they're all going to take her stuff...)

We do a playgroup once a week and other group activities (music etc) but she won't wander more than about an arm's length away from me during them, she really enjoys them as she never wants to leave but I have to be physically right next to her the entire time.

Maybe some of this is normal (?) for a child who doesn't go to nursery or childminder or anything...? It feels as if she is a lot more 'particular' than most toddlers I know, which is fine by me but I just would love for her to be a fraction happier without me so close by as she really does seem to love the occasions when she does it happily - going out for a morning with my mum, playing with her cousins etc.

Any advice?

Gunpowder Wed 07-Jan-15 21:42:23

Emerald I always read your posts and think 'that's a bit like DD six months ago.'

DD started at pre-school just after her second birthday and it was tough at first, lots of crying and tantrums at drop off and she needed lots of encouragement and cuddles from the teachers. I am a SAHM and so only signed her up for one day a week and in retrospect she would have settled MUCH faster if she'd started going 3 or even 2 days, so if you can sign your DD up to shorter more frequent sessions I'd definitely consider that.

That said, she now happily trots along and even asks to go to preschool and is so much more independent than six months ago but it has been a slow process. I think your DD will get there and I think you are right not to force the issue. It's lovely that she has such a secure attachment to you and that will enable her to form other attachments once she's ready.

fredfredgeorgejnr Wed 07-Jan-15 22:10:58

You mention a MIL, so I'm going to assume you have a DP? I think that's the first step, not so much to make her independent, but to transfer her dependence onto your DP some times so she can feel secure without it specifically being you?

Can't you spend more time away where your DP has full control of her.

Emeraldgirl2 Thu 08-Jan-15 09:31:35

aw, thanks Gunpowder, that's really nice of you and am impressed you even remember me at all though it may be because I am so OFTEN popping up with woes and worries about this whole parenting thing

That's great news that your DD settled in the end, I can only imagine how stressful it must have been in the run-up to get to that point, though. But it's great advice and in fact the two pre-schools I'm thinking of would both take her for two afternoons a week to begin with, then three afternoons the second term, building up to four mornings by the summer term. I've had that in mind as I know DD is better at settling with things when she has a bit more regular exposure to them IYSWIM.

fredfred, that's great advice too, DD is an absolute Daddy worshipper at the moment (seriously, she spends ALL DAY asking when dada will be home...) but still has moments of getting a bit teary or even full-on hysterical on the occasions when I leave her with him by themselves... it depends on the mood she's in actually, if she's teething or poorly then she screams blue murder but if I can pick my moments and find the times when she's cheery then I should try to encourage that one-on-one time, I think.

It can feel quite hard to begin all this as she protests SO much that sometimes it hardly feels worth it but I do know that I need to keep up the attempts and keep consistent.

Gunpowder, it's also v nice of you to say that you think she must have a very secure bond to me, because honestly at times I really worry that I've done something hideously wrong and that for some reason she doesn't feel secure in her relationship with me at all, hence her clinginess and need for reassurance. I don't actually know anything formal about attachment theory but I do sometimes worry that I'm the one making her this way somehow and that it's not a good thing sad

Seeline Thu 08-Jan-15 09:43:43

I think the independence will come from starting to go to pre-school - I don't think you can really make it happen if she has no need to be independent.
I agree with Fredfred - use Dad! If you are always there, she will always expect that. I would start with very frequent, short bursts of leaving her with your DP. Just pop out for 5 minutes, gradually lengthening the time. But do it everyday. She will see that you always come back, and that she is safe with Dad. Then you can start doing the same with other people she knows.
I think perhaps you also need to start saying 'no' if for example you are cooking and she comes for a cuddle. 'Hang on, I just need to finish this little bit' then pick her up for a cuddle, put her down and carry on. Similarly, she can sit on your lap after she's finished her meal etc.
Definitely carry on with your groups etc that will definitely help, but again if she interrupts a conversation just say 'Hang on DD, I'm talking', and make sure you give her a lot of attention when you finish.

Emeraldgirl2 Thu 08-Jan-15 09:47:20

Seeline, that's a veyr good point actually and one that hadn't occurred to me! If she has no need to be independent, of course she won't be!!
I suppose I worry too that she'll be such a late developer in these terms that she'll miss out somehow, that all her peers will have started getting more independent much earlier and so will be scooting on to more and more independence while she's just barely in the early stages of it... simply because it's in some ways a skill that needs practice. I just want her to be ok when she starts reception!!!

Seeline Thu 08-Jan-15 10:51:46

Ahh - she's not even 2 yet!! She'll be fine by the time she starts reception smile Honestly, they change so much between about 3-4, you will be amazed at the difference. She is still a baby in many ways at the moment. Other forms of independence exist - let her choose whether to wear the red top or the yellow top in the morning, which book she would like to read etc. Help her learn to do things for herself - put on a coat etc. Perhaps getting her to help you would encourage her to leave your side for a few minutes - ask her to get a toy from her room, or put something in the kitchen for you.

Goldmandra Fri 09-Jan-15 23:38:29

Your DD is only 1! She is a baby. Why are you worrying about her being more independent?

Forget pre-school. If she's not ready when the time comes put it off for a while. She won't get anything there she doesn't get with you. She does not need to get more independent for a long time.

Enjoy the closeness you have and let her grow in independence as a when she is ready. She is really very little for you to be worrying about this.

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