How to Handle Toddler Stress
posted 2020 Oct by
What causes Toddler stress? | Signs of Toddler stress | How to handle Toddler stress | Managing Toddler stress during COVID-19 pandemic.
Childhood stress can be present in any setting that requires the child to adapt or change. Stress may be caused by positive changes, such as starting a new activity, but it is most commonly linked with negative changes such as illness or death in the family. With all the changes happening in their little bodies and minds, toddlers are often sensitive to the world around them and are prone to feeling stress. It is important for parents to recognize the signs of childhood stress and to look for the possible causes. Here are some of the reasons your toddler may be feeling stressed, some common signs to look out for, and the ways to lessen his or her anxiety.
What causes Toddler Stress?
The source of stress in children can be something external, such as a problem at school, changes in the family, or a conflict with a friend. Anxious feelings can also be caused by a child's internal feelings and pressures, such as wanting to do well in school or fit in with peers. Some common causes of stress in children include:
Changes in the Family.
Major life changes that can lead to stress in children include divorce, a death in the family, moving, a parent's job loss or the addition of a new sibling. The combination of heightened emotions, disrupted schedules, and unfamiliar routines can make even the most relaxed child feel some tension Major life changes can shake your child’s sense of security, leading to confusion and anxiety. For example, even though the birth of a sibling is deemed a positive change, it can be stressful simply because the toddler must adjust to a different way of life in the household .
Overly packed Schedules.
Children live in the present and enjoy taking the time to experience the world around them, so overscheduling them for different activities or rushing from place to place can create stress. If a parent's agenda or busy to-do list disregards a child's rhythm, stress will occur.
When potty training goes well, it tends to just be a transition. However, it becomes a stressor when parents push it on a child before he's ready. If learning to use the potty is beginning to feel like a discipline issue, reevaluate your toddler's readiness. He may be trying to tell you that now is not the most effective time to learn this new skill, even if you are hoping it is. The longer the struggle, the bigger the stress becomes. Instead of worrying, consult your pediatrician, find expert info online, or read books on the subject.
Unexpected World Events.
Big scary events (natural disasters, global pandemics, school shootings, and terrorist attacks) or exposure to violence on the evening news can affect toddlers. Even accidental exposure to a scary movie or commercials on television can influence your child. It's common for children to pick up on the stress around them. Pay attention to any frightening or violent images surrounding a child's environment on a daily basis.
Signs of Toddler stress.
Some common signs of stress include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Behavioral changes, such as moodiness, aggression, a short temper, or clinginess
- Fears (fear of the dark, being alone, or of strangers)
- Development of a nervous habit, such as nail biting
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Refusal to go to school
- Getting into trouble at school
- Hoarding items of seeming insignificant
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Complaints of stomach aches or headaches
- Sleep problems or nightmares
How to handle Toddler stress?
There are healthy ways in which your child can cope and respond to stress, they just need some help and guidance. You can help in the following ways:
Stick to the Schedule.
Maintain daily routines such as going to day care or preschool, feeding, and preparing for bedtime. Routines allow toddlers to feel in control over what to expect. This goes a long way in creating a sense of calm. Keeping a consistent bedtime is particularly important because children can become stressed more easily if they are overtired. To help your child cope with the stressors of life, make certain that she is getting a good night's sleep, adequate naptime, healthy meals, and plenty of daily activity. It's best to postpone other changes -- such as potty training or transitioning to a big-kid bed -- that can disrupt the normal schedule. Wait until life has settled into a comfortable pattern.
Keep Them Involved.
Give your child a heads up on any anticipated changes and talk through the new scenarios with them. For example, if you will be taking a new job in a new city, what will that mean for them in terms of a new school, new friends and a new home? Involve your child in social and sports activities where they can succeed. Allow for opportunities where your child can have control over a situation in their life.
Give Extra Attention.
When adjusting to change, some extra one-on-one attention and a few more daily cuddles and kisses can provide just what a toddler needs to feel comfortable and to get settled into new patterns. Whether the stressor is a negative or positive one, the added affection can help boost the child's confidence and self-regulation skills, enabling her to be more flexible and resilient to change.
Managing toddler stress during covid-19 pandemic.
Children may respond to stress in different ways such as being clingier, anxious, withdrawing, angry or agitated, bedwetting etc. Respond to your child’s reactions in a supportive way, listen to their concerns and give them extra love and attention. Try and keep children close to their parents and family and avoid separating children and their caregivers to the extent possible.
If separation occurs (e.g. hospitalization) ensure regular contact (e.g. via phone) and re-assurance. Provide facts about what has happened, explain what is going on now and give them clear information about how to reduce their risk of being infected by the disease in words that they can understand depending on their age. This also includes providing information about what could happen in a re-assuring way (e.g. a family member and/or the child may start not feeling well and may have to go to the hospital for some time so doctors can help them feel better).
Children need adults’ love and attention during difficult times. Give them extra time and attention. Remember to listen to your children, speak kindly and reassure them. If possible, make opportunities for the child to play and relax. Keep to regular routines and schedules as much as possible, or help create new ones in a new environment, including school/learning as well as time for safely playing and relaxing.
Here are some recommendations for lowering your stress during this time of uncertainty.
Do virtual meetups or playdates.
Use whatever technology you have available (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) to virtually meet up with those you love. If your kids are missing their friends from school or best friend from down the block, work with parents to arrange virtual playdates.
Make “me” time.
“Me” time is important for everyone in your home to practice. Set aside time every day for your kids to do something for themselves or have quiet time in their rooms, and during this time, treat yourself to something that will help you relax.
Do 30 minutes of yoga, eat your favorite snack without having to share with your kids, or watch a new episode of a TV show—whatever it is that will help you unwind.
Limit your time on social media and watching the news.
This can be tough for some people because scrolling through social media is often seen as a way of relaxing. But the constant exposure to the worries over COVID-19 can be harmful.
Put a limit on how long you will spend on social media and how much of the news you’ll watch each day. Consider doing the same thing for your children. Their exposure to the news of COVID-19 can cause fear, worry, and stress, which can lead to irritability or acting out, unhealthy eating and sleep habits, excessive sadness, and difficulty with attention and concentration.