Bedtime Routines

How to Handle When Your Toddler Only Wants Mom

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Learn techniques for what to do when your toddler only wants mom and explore strategies for handling the situation with care.

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If your child only prefers mom and you're feeling a bit worried or frustrated, don't worry! There are various ways to connect with your child, and the best opportunity you have is at bedtime. Here's what you can do to connect with your child today. ⬇️

Is it normal for my toddler to only want mom?

It is entirely normal for toddlers to exhibit a strong preference for one parent, often the mother, during certain developmental stages. This behavior is commonly associated with separation anxiety, a natural part of a child's emotional development.

Why does my child only want mom? 

When children exhibit a strong preference for one parent, particularly the mother, it is often linked to various factors related to attachment needs, developmental stages, and separation anxiety.

  • Attachment needs: Children's attachment to a specific caregiver, often the mother, is a natural part of their emotional development. This attachment gives them a sense of security and comfort, especially during stress or uncertainty.
  • Developmental stage: Between the ages of eight months and a year, children are maturing into more self-sufficient adults, but they may also experience increased anxiety when they are separated from their parents.
  • Separation anxiety: Separation anxiety is a natural stage of development, and it is most common in preschoolers when they're out of their regular routine, in a new environment, or when they're just not in the mood to be away from mom or dad.
“The attachments of both child and parents affect children's physical, psychological, behavioural, and developmental wellbeing.”

What to do when a toddler who only wants mom

When a child strongly prefers one parent over the other, especially the mother, it's critical that both parents recognize this behavior and respond to it with compassion and encouragement. Here are some tactics to think about:

1. Encourage bonding with the other parent

Encouraging bonding activities between the child and the other parent can help strengthen their relationship. Dads and other partners often yearn for closer contact with their babies, bonding can happen through special activities and shared caregiving responsibilities.

2. Equal involvement in caregiving

Both parents should strive for equal involvement in caregiving tasks, such as feeding, changing diapers, and engaging in playtime. 

3. Quality one-on-one time

Spending quality one-on-one time with the child can help strengthen the bond between the child and the parent who is not the preferred caregiver. 

Quality time can happen anytime and anywhere, providing opportunities for positive communication, laughter, eye contact, hugs, and gentle touches.

"It’s important for both parents to be involved and responsive to their child’s emotional cues, even if a strong preference for one parent is evident at certain stages of development."
💡Dra. Lorena Koppel

4. Establish a consistent routine that involves both parents

By establishing a consistent routine that involves both parents, you're creating a stable environment where your children can flourish and your family can thrive as a team.

We have a blog for bedtime by age: bedtimes by age

sample routines involving both parents

  • Remember that our StoryBook App has meditations, short stories, massages, and affirmations.

Involve other family members

Involving other family members can provide additional support and opportunities for bonding with the child. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives can play a significant role in the child's life, offering love, care, and unique experiences that contribute to their overall well-being.

What to do to help strengthen the bond with the other parent

Take into account the strategies that follow to help your relationship with the other parent get stronger:

  • Create special traditions: Establishing special traditions or activities unique to the child and the other parent can foster a sense of connection and create lasting memories. This could include regular outings, shared hobbies, or specific rituals that the child and the other parent can look forward to.
  • Positive reinforcement when the child engages: Providing positive reinforcement and encouragement when the child engages with the other parent can reinforce their bond.
  • Recognize that building a bond takes time: Recognizing that building a solid bond takes time is essential. The child and the other parent may need patience and understanding as they navigate their relationship. 
  • Involve the child in decision-making: Involving the child in age-appropriate decision-making processes can empower them and strengthen their connection with the other parent.
  • Celebrate milestones together: Celebrating milestones and achievements together as a family can create meaningful experiences and reinforce the bond between the child and the other parent. 

Check out this blog we have for you: morning checklist for kids

How can I reassure the other parent when the toddler only wants mom?

When a toddler shows a strong preference for one parent, particularly the mother, it can be a challenging experience for the other parent. 

To reassure the other parent during this phase, it's essential to understand that this behavior is a typical development phase and does not reflect inadequacy. 

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How to identify if your child has separation anxiety

Recognizing particular behaviors and indicators of your child's suffering when removed from a parent or caregiver is essential to determining whether your youngster suffers from separation anxiety. The following are typical warning signs to watch out for:

if you have trouble sleeping, this blog is for you: bedtime is a nightmare

  • Excessive crying and tantrums: Children with separation anxiety may exhibit excessive crying, tantrums, or emotional distress when faced with the prospect of being separated from a parent or caregiver.
  • Clinging and following: A child experiencing separation anxiety may display clingy behavior, seeking constant physical proximity to their preferred caregiver. 
  • Difficulty with transitions: Transitions, such as being dropped off at daycare or school, can be particularly challenging for children with separation anxiety. 
  • Nightmares and sleep issues: Separation anxiety can manifest during bedtime, leading to nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, or resistance to sleeping alone. 
“Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a type of mental health problem. A child with SAD worries a lot about being apart from family members or other close people.”
💡Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Written By

Francisco Cornejo
CEO Storybook

Francisco Cornejo, a dynamic entrepreneur with a Masters in Communication from RMIT University in Australia, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Storybook. As a serial entrepreneur, he notably served as the Chief Marketing Officer at Honda Motors in Latin America, shaping the brand's regional presence. ‍ Passionate about family well-being and communication, Francisco leads Storybook in its mission to improve children's health globally, aiming to create positive impacts in both corporate and societal spheres.


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