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My nearly 16 month old gets very upset when I leave the room, even if it's just for a 2 minute trip to the bathroom. I'm not leaving him on his own but with another adult that he knows well (eg his Dad). This is strange because he's fine every weekday at daycare and he's OK if I go out for a while but if I'm just in the next room and he can't get to me, he cries.

I've tried the usual tips for leaving, like making sure I say goodbye, explaining where I'm going and that I'll be back soon but it doesn't seem to help. If I can hear him crying outside the door I'll tell him I'm nearly finished and not to worry but he keeps crying. He doesn't speak much yet but he seems to understand a lot so I think he must know what I'm saying.

He can be playing happily when I go but once he notices I'm not there, he comes looking for me and cries.

Has anyone had a similar problem and found any good solutions?

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    I had the same thing. My son definitely went through a clingy stage with his mama. Unfortunately, the only thing that worked was time. He eventually grew out of it. I think this is pretty normal. Have you tried not explaining to him that you're going? Alerting him, now, might just trigger his response. – user11394 May 5 '15 at 18:19
  • Yes, I've tried not telling him I'm going too. Even if he's playing a nice game that doesn't seem to particularly involve me, he soon notices when I'm not there. It's not the biggest problem in the world - I'd rather he's fine at daycare which he is. But I wondered if there's something wrong in my approach to leaving for a short time – MiniMum May 5 '15 at 18:44
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    If you've tried it all, I doubt you're doing anything wrong. Toddlers just aren't reasonable people. – user11394 May 5 '15 at 18:45
  • Well that's how toddlers are, nothing wrong with your approach. Every toddler I've ever known (including my 2) behave the same way unless they're preoccupied with something interesting. Toddlers get over such grief of losing you for 2 minutes as they grow up :D – Ejaz May 6 '15 at 19:27
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I would suggest strapping him into his stroller and bringing him with you. Or if you need privacy, how about if father starts something special with him before you go? Such as toddler makes a phone call to friend or relative, or father takes toddler out for a short walk or just steps outside with him to see what the weather's like.

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My son exhibited similar behaviors around the same age. I think similar questions on this site show that many parents have this problem, so you're definitely not alone here.

However, knowing other people have the same problem doesn't make this any less frustrating!

My wife found it slightly annoying, being followed or cried after whenever she moved around. I was probably more frustrated by the fact that my son was interested in me once my wife left the room. So, this situation can be emotionally difficult for both parents.

What got us through this was just understanding that it's a common phase, and eventually he'd grow out of it. Part of it was likely due to me already being gone from work and school so much that my wife was almost always there.

It's also not unusual that they behave differently at day care, because it's a completely different environment for them.

This Ask Dr. Sears article addresses how to raise an independent toddler, and I think some of the solutions here may be useful for you. And, it sounds like you're already doing some of the things it mentions:

  • Keeping a toddler posted on your absence
  • Substituting voice contact

So I would try some more, and keep up with these.

For reference, my wife and I still keep my son posted on what we're doing, and talk to him even when he's acting out about us being gone. The most notable example of this is when we're using the bathroom. Both of us tend to tell him that we're going potty. This helps him learn that such absences (potty) are short, we can still talk through the door, and (we hope) it may help facilitate future potty-training. We also tell him whenever one of us is leaving, such as "Papa is going to his room." or "Papa is going to work." or "Mama is taking out the garbage and she'll be right back."

Lastly, it did also help when there were some times when it was just me and my boy, and my wife was out on her own. He would sometimes fuss for awhile because she wasn't there, but eventually he realized that "Mama is gone" time pretty much meant "Papa is playing" time, and her absences began to indicate fun instead of stress.

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