My daughter is a single mom with a 2-year-old boy.

He cries when she needs to do dishes and laundry. Even if he had eye contact with her, he doesn't want to play on his own or watch one of his movies, if she doesn't sit with him all the time. He is at playschool during the day. She spends time him when they get home like playing with him, holding him, etc.

How do they overcome this problem?

3 Answers 3


Does he manage at playschool? I assume he does, so look at how they deal with it.

Generally it's not actually separation anxiety, but knowing that crying gets them the reward they want (in this case, attention and cuddles) but as any parent knows (and for single parents this is much harder) sometimes you just can't give the toddler the attention it wants.

Partial solutions include singing and talking with him while doing chores, but you have indicated this isn't working. So training is required, both for the toddler and the mother (and weirdly enough, it is usually the parent that finds this hardest - if they respond straight away to a cry, then they reinforce the behaviour)

She needs to learn that continuing with chores a few minutes longer is not going to break her son. Taking breaks from him and the returning, and taking a little longer each time helps make him used to it. It trains him not to be concerned that she is not next to him.

So perhaps she should try at first washing one dish, then bringing it back to dry it with him. And make a game of it. After a bit, wash two at once then come over, or wash a couple of things including one of his cups, and then bring it for him to dry.

There are so many things that can help, but ensure your daughter learns how to not be ruled by her child :-)


It's time to introduce parallel play. Parallel play is a form of play where two people play in a similar context but they do not interact with each other's play. They can still interact but they don't touch each other's play.

Ask your daughter to find two similar activities within the home like Legos or playing with clay. When they are playing with them, ask your daughter to work on one project while her son works on another. Tell your daughter to insist that the son doesn't touch her project and she won't touch his. They can still talk, interact, and discuss what they are working on.

Slowly introduce this. As time goes, ask that your daughter begin the parallel play and then gradually, for short periods of time, dismiss herself. Over time she will be able to stay away longer. Have her encourage her son, saying what a great job he is doing and how cool his project looks as she slowly dismisses herself. This should encourage him to continue playing while she can get some work done.

This will allow her to get some work done while still acting like a play partner.


Does she involve him in the activity? If not, she should try it in whatever way he can help. I let my kids start to help me as soon as they can follow me room to room. I have pictures of my kids, unable to stand on their own, wobbly standing at the open dryer helping me put clothing into it. When I did dishes, I may put them in the high chair where I was & hand them the unbreakable items to "dry" with a towel, etc. Kids want to be with you as mom. That is natural & a good thing. I just did my best to involve them as I could.

I also have a small kitchen cupboard I emptied of things that matter, I put a touch light in it, I put a small stick on hook to the backside so they have a handle to pull it shut & I put items in there they can have, like wooden spoons & some empty plastic food storage things they can pound on for drums, or play kitchen, or whatever. I have a very small kitchen too. It's a pain to give up that space but it also saves my sanity & makes them happy, so I am good with that trade off.

I also gauge what is happening. Is the child more clingy than usual? If so, I adjust & cuddle more. You don't get worse by having needs met. If you are hungry & someone feeds you, that doesn't make you more hungry. Likewise if a child is hungering for your attention, give more. Developmentally they go through tons of phases, many we aren't attuned to, so I trust my child. If my child eats only 3 blueberries for breakfast, people say to me (doctor included) she'll eat when she's hungry. So I am told, over & over (which I agree) to trust her to tell me how much food she needs. Likewise I trust them to tell me how much attention they need. My kids have varied at different ages & one to the other at how much attention they need. I find that if my child wants attention, I can either opt to give it, or I can muster through with them hanging off me, crying, carrying on & and then give it after, and if I had just stopped & spent 20 mins of great interaction to start with, all of that could have been avoided. But at 2, it can brain development, could be teeth, could be a growth spurt, could be that the sky is too blue, because let's face it, at 2 a child will beg you for a waffle, you make it, then say they don't want it. Then you take it away & eat it & then they cry you ate their waffle. I have had them cry because I cut the sandwich up, even though they always want it cut. Even so, they all eventually were no longer 2 or 3 & came around to be far less clingy & making a whole lot more sense. I didn't parent my toddlers to stop being toddlers, instead I opted to accept that they were toddlers & work with them in their strange little world & they all grew out of it.

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