Mental Health Blog

Toddler Survival for Parents

Posted by Alan Godfrey on

Has your living room been hit with a tornado? Is your sleep something you now just dream about? Have you and your spouse argued? If you answered yes, then you may have a toddler. Do not worry, there is hope. This is one of the hardest parts of your life, but you are not alone and can take it one day at a time. Here I hope to give resources, tips, and encouragement. Let’s start this blog series with how to handle those very big feelings coming from such a tiny body.

If your toddler is biting, pulling hair, screaming, difficult to console, then you may be pulling your own hair out sometimes. You may have already heard about taking deep breaths, taking a break, asking for help, but leaning into the strong emotions of a toddler may be new. Check your expectations of what you have for them, and in low soft voices try to say phrases like “I know you’re mad, sad, upset, you wanted X and it did not happen, I know that is upsetting.” Trying that before the outrage beings may help settle a tantrum before it starts. If your toddler is biting or being physically aggressive, and you have ruled out physical causes like hunger or teething, they likely want your attention or are trying to communicate something to you. Try giving them 10 solid minutes of undivided attention. No cell phones, other conversations, be reflective in their behavior and play or story time. Toddlers emotional cup can be filled and then they can play more independently, especially as they get older.

Psychology today and books like The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers below state the dangers of letting a child “cry it out” especially as they get older. The main downside is teaching them that their needs will not get met, so why try. Everything your toddler is doing is a form of them trying to communicate. Imagine how frustrating that would be if you wanted to connect but just didn’t have the words!

When you are feeling frustrated, it usually is that you are feeling powerless or disrespected. Remembering your child is not trying to disrespect you, that you will survive if they do not sleep, and that they are trying to communicate the best the can are all mental tools to reframe yourself back into truth.

If you are not part of a parenting support system, find one online or in your community at once, this cannot be stressed enough. Every child is different, but everyone who is a parent can empathize and support you. It is not worth it to go it alone. If you need professional help further, reach out to your local counseling center, church, or doctor.

 

Alan Godfrey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #102925.

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