I know how hard it is to see clearly when you’re in the thick of it, but from my point-of-view your son’s “stage” makes perfect sense. He’s simply reacting to the stage you’re in – pregnancy — and all the feelings you’re having around it.
First, I wouldn’t be concerned about him becoming ”shy” or mention anything to him about shyness, unless you speak about it as a transient feeling, i.e., “Are you feeling shy? Come, sit next to me.” I was dubbed “shy”, too, but the “shy” label (like all labels) can be perceived as a pronouncement or judgment.
It sounds to me like he’s understandably worried, unsure and unsettled about the impending, somewhat mysterious change in his life, and that’s causing him to regress a little — withdraw, feel clingy and needy. The best way to handle this, in my opinion, is to realize that his behavioral changes are normal, natural and temporary, and welcome them.
Yes, he must continue to go to school and may cry when you leave him, and the changes in his daycare have made matters worse, but he’ll cope. As uncomfortable as it is to for his sensitive pregnant mommy to see his tears, keep in mind that it’s really good for him to release some of his tension, shed some of the confusing mix of feelings he’s carrying around. Don’t talk him out of any feelings. Acknowledge them and keep encouraging him to talk about them to try to sort them out, reminding him how normal they are.
“He often wants to sit with Mom or Dad when we’re at friends’ houses, birthday parties or anywhere where there are large groups of people…We give him the space and time he needs to warm up and try to let him lead the way when he is comfortable.”
Keep handling social situations this way, allowing him to be the one to pull away from you and decide when (or if) he wants to interact with others. Embrace his clinginess (literally) and enjoy having him on your lap. Soak up these last days of it being just the two of you (or three, with daddy). Even if he spends the entire party on your lap (if you still have a lap) or right next to you, so what? Don’t worry about it or project even the tiniest bit of disappointment in him. This is an instance when “letting go” is best.
Trust your son’s need to withdraw, and allow him to, no matter how uncharacteristic or unreasonable the behavior might seem, but don’t let go of rules and limits if he acts out. The anticipation of the birth of a new sibling and the adjustment in the first months afterwards cause some children to act out their discomfort by testing our limits. If we feel sorry or guilty, we might follow an impulse to give in and allow misbehavior rather than setting the usual limits. Children in difficult transitions actually need the opposite — to feel even more “nested”, reined-in by our firm, consistent boundaries. When our kids are feeling wobbly, which usually (and inconveniently) coincides with our own wobbliness, they need us to stay on the ball, kindly setting them straight. I know this isn’t your issue right now (be grateful!), but it might happen later.
Most importantly, please relax, breathe deeply and try not to add any of your anxiety, worries, guilt or fear to the equation. This will pass, I swear, and soon your boy will revert back to being his friendly, articulate, outgoing and funny self. Some children calm down considerably as soon as the baby’s born. Others take a few more months to transition to a change they perceive as both positive and negative. Accept it all with open arms. Try to enjoy all the ups and downs of this exciting chapter in your life, and please let me know how it goes…
Take good care…I’m excited for you!
I share more advice for handling difficult toddler emotions in
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
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