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  • Megan Robert

SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD THROUGH BIG CHANGES IN THEIR LITTLE WORLD

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.