7 Ways To Support Toddlers & Young Children Through Tough Times

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 7 Ways To Support Toddlers & Young Children Through Tough Times
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For those of us who are parenting young children during quarantine right now, the struggle is truly real.

It has been — and continues to be — completely overwhelming working, as well as parenting my own toddler.

I'm hearing the same from the families that I work with at my office (virtually, of course), and thought it might help to compile some of the things that my family has been doing to help support our son right now.

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One particularly difficult morning, my son was struggling to adjust on Monday to having another "Dad working in the garage" morning. I could tell during breakfast that he was sad and missing his Dad, but just couldn’t say it.

Of course, these feelings then manifested into some behaviors, which are of course expected at this age, but can leave any parent (including me) feeling completely inept.

I wanted to offer support to other parents struggling with similar situations by sharing the way I've been trying to handle things as much as possible. But believe me, I'm not perfect either!

Here are 7 ways to support toddlers and young children through these tough times.

1. Verbalize the emotions your child might be feeling.

Our son is not ready to share his feelings in words — we settle for his dino roars when angry, these days. So, I try to help him label what is going on.

Sometimes, I do this right in the moment if he is receptive. If not, I try to do it afterwards when he's feeling calmer.

2. See it from their perspective.

I put myself in his shoes as much as possible. I try to remember how confusing this situation must be for him: We, his parents, are home — but sometimes working, and sometimes all together.

3. Reframe the situation.

I reframe the situation to consider that he is not "giving me a hard time," but having a hard time himself.

4. Balance your time.

I'm trying hard to give him quality time when I can, and to notice when I think he needs some time to play independently.

5. Try to keep a schedule.

Since my husband and I are juggling childcare and work, have designated "work" time or "Luca" time.

This helps us with keeping a routine in the morning that we both like — play, breakfast, play, walk, and some iPad or TV time while I get ready for work.

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6. Keep the image that everything is fine.

I'm working hard on relaxing while around my son and not talking as much about the stressful things in our world.

We don’t avoid the topic of why we aren’t going to daycare, but keep it light by referring to "germs" and wanting to stay home to be safe together.

7. Be a bit easygoing.

We've definitely relaxed some rules as well to help this situation feel a bit more fun. In the past, we used to go out and do a lot of social outings and things.

Since we can’t, we're trying to make things as fun as possible at home.

This is a particularly hard time to be a parent to a young or school-aged child. As parents, we're often the ones setting the tone in our families.

While my family is adjusting to this situation, we are much quicker to struggle than we used to be. I think this is just the nature of this period in time, so we are trying to be proactive in our self-care right now.

If you're struggling to figure out how to engage in self-care because most of what you used to do is now unavailable (i.e., massages, nights out, time away, gym classes, beach days, etc.), start thinking about your personal needs.

This includes what you think you should need, but what you really need as a person to thrive. For me, I need some downtime as well as time to feel connected with friends and our community.

While this is by no means as possible for me as it was before, I've found that even a little bit of time by myself (even just a walk on the weekends alone) or time to miss a daily routine like bedtime has been helpful.

I'm fortunate that I have a partner who can help with this. I recognize that some people don’t have that available right now. I encourage you still to focus on figuring out what it is you are looking for in your life and strategies or ways to access it, even while social distancing.

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Erica Wollerman is a licensed clinical psychologist who has held a passion for helping people since beginning her career in psychology in 2006. If you would like to read more about her work, check out Thrive Therapy Studio for more information.

This article was originally published at Thrive Therapy Studio. Reprinted with permission from the author.