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Regression in Preschoolers

December 6, 2010
Children and Teens
“Staff Tips and Strategies” and a drawing of a family in green

JSSA Early Childhood Services

Q: My middle child is turning 3 this month, and she has become extremely clingy. She wants to be in my lap constantly and when in my lap coos, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” She fights for attention with the baby 1 ½ years younger and her older brother, 4. She has also exhibited similar clingy behaviors with her teachers in school. What can I do?

A: This is a common problem for a 3-year-old. Your daughter has made a huge step in development by becoming potty trained, relinquishing her bottle and attending school. However, even after accomplishing these changes, children often do seek extra support and comfort.

A few points to remember as you guide your child through this stage:

Regression is natural. It is one of the ways a child adjusts to a new level of development. Often a child is not quite ready for the changes taking place in his or her life. It’s important he or she is not made to feel shame and disapproval because of a need for reassurance and comfort

Indulge her extra need for comfort. She’s feeling insecure as she moves forward and wants to be reassured that you will still love her. If you allow her to pretend to be a baby for a few minutes each day, it may be a game that satisfies her needs. Remember, she can stop the game whenever she is feeling more secure.

As a middle child, she may need a bit more time and attention. The oldest and youngest children mark the milestones in parents’ childbearing years as the first and the last baby. Sometimes the middle child is left without a role. Be aware of the child’s feelings. Acknowledge the uniqueness of each of your children. Try not to have your middle child succumb to peer pressures from the oldest or youngest.