SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD THROUGH BIG CHANGES IN THEIR LITTLE WORLD (PART 4 OF 7)

September 7, 2020

PART 4 OF 7 AREAS COMMONLY OVERLOOKED OR NOT STRATEGICALLY PLANNED

 

So your infant or toddler is about to or has recently experienced a big change, huh? Perhaps it’s a move, the welcoming home of a new sibling, their first time at daycare or with a new nanny, the loss of a loved one (even our furry humans), divorce, or maybe a crazy pandemic?!

 

Whatever it is, note that big changes naturally can throw off sleep and cause an emotional roller coaster for our little humans. The level you experience will depend on your child’s personality, your child’s age, how you respond, the extremity of the situation, and whether or not sleep was already an issue. So how can you help your baby sleep well through a big change?

 

Use the steps I use when working with clients, what I call my UPS process!

 

UNDERSTANDING

 

SHOW SYMPATHY

 

It is easy to become frustrated with a toddler who is whiny and clingy for what seems to be eternity. Especially when this is happening during a time when stuck at home and/or getting little sleep!

 

While it might be difficult, do your best to show sympathy. Your baby is learning about the world around them while experiencing different emotions and figuring out how to regulate those emotions. Not to mention picking up on the vibes within the house and family.

 

Going through a big change in the middle of learning how to navigate those emotions? It’s no surprise your child might feel and act out as if their world has been turned upside down.

 

One of the first steps in helping your child through a big change is to be understanding. Take a moment to view life from your child’s perspective, accept the effect this moment has on them, and validate their emotions as their reality. If we ignore what’s really going on and don’t accept how they might truly feel, these frustrating moments can expand and persist.

 

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CHILD

 

Host a conversation with your child to listen, to validate, and to reassure at a time of day when they are receptive. Show your child that you understand their struggle and are there to help them get through it. Show your child that you also feel different emotions and that it’s normal to have different feelings with big changes. Assist them in understanding and regulating their emotions.

 

If your child is able to verbally express their feelings, have an open-ended conversation. If your child is not able to do so, have a conversation that provides reassurance. The type of conversation will depend on your child’s development, but trust me when I say that infants and toddlers understand more than which they are often given credit! Don't underestimate your chid's ability to understand what you have to say.

 

EXAMPLE OF A CONVERSATION WITH A VERBAL CHILD ABOUT A NEW SIBLING

 

“Todd, I know we have had a lot of changes lately with the new baby. How do these changes make you feel?”

 

Let your child respond.

 

“So you are telling me that you feel [emotion]. I can see why you feel that way! You know, when we brought Baby home, I felt that way, too. [Give example.] I was also a little worried about XYZ. But? Once I got the hang of XYZ, I felt better. I was also happy to be home with both you and Baby. It is normal to feel different ways when a big change happens. Is there anything else you want to share with how you are feeling?”

 

Let your child respond.

 

“ [Respond to show you understand.] What do you think would be a good solution that allows us to still care for Baby but help you feel …?”

 

Let your child respond.

 

Respond to show you heard your child and then discuss further if needed. For example, if your child’s suggested solution is unreasonable, provide some options from which they can choose that allow a sort of compromise.

 

EXAMPLE OF A CONVERSATION WITH A NONVERBAL CHILD ABOUT A NEW SIBLING

 

“Todd, I know we have had a lot of changes lately with the new baby. And you know that makes me feel a lot of feelings - happy, sad, frustrated, loved. Do you have a lot of feelings because of the new baby?”

 

Provide the opportunity for your child to respond.

 

“I bet! I know I do! I have felt happy (smile real big), sad (sad face), loving (hug and care face), and anxious (worried face) at times. And that is normal and ok! This was a big change for you, Mommy, and Daddy. Can you show me how you have been feeling?”

 

Provide the opportunity for your child to respond.

 

"Mommy and Daddy love you and Baby very much. So we are doing our best to make sure that both of you are healthy and happy to help everyone through this change. So how about every day you and I spend time [insert favorite activity]. Would you like to do that now?”

 

PLANNING

 

PROVIDE CONSISTENCY & STRUCTURE

 

While consistency and structure are very helpful for children in general, this is even more important for them when experiencing a big change as it provides them with some level of predictability. Do your best to keep the schedule, routines, even the foods they eat, etc. as normal as possible in the midst of the abnormal.

 

Here are some examples of what I mean. Prioritize naps at the right time of day when possible. Avoid making any unnecessary changes like a crib to bed transition within or after three months of the big event. If moving into a new home, create a sleep environment as similar to their old room.

 

EVALUATE AND CREATE A SLEEP PLAN

 

If sleep is an issue, evaluate your child’s sleep and create a sleep plan to make sure your child has the components necessary to keep that sleep foundation strong. Again, that structure is going to be even more important during a time of something new.

 

HOWEVER, if now is not a time that you are able to provide the necessary components? Do what you can while also showing yourself and your child the grace needed to get through whatever period of life you are currently experiencing.

 

SUPPORT

 

Your child most likely will need some time to bounce back. Don't expect a transformation in one day just because you have had a conversation and made some changes. Think of this as more of a marathon than a sprint. Continue checking in with your child and validating their emotions while also providing structure and consistency when possible.

 

Check out other related posts: 7 Daily Tools to Decrease the Bedtime Struggle (Part 1 of 7)Developmental Milestones that Can Throw Off Sleep (Part 2 of 7) and Tips for Navigating Sleep When Daycare is Involved (Part 3 of 7). For tips that will help further to encourage desired behavior and minimize tears, you can also check out my blogpost on three simple tools.

 

 

 

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