Congrats Momma. You did it. You survived labour and delivery, sleepless nights of feedings and teething. You have celebrated the milestone first birthday, and you might have even rejoined the workforce. Every hurdle that has come your way so far, you have tackled. But now, you have a toddler on your hands. And it’s a whole new ballgame. We have all heard about the challenges that come with raising toddlers, from the meltdowns to the never-ending negotiation. Going through this period requires lots of patience and perspective, so buckle up; it might be a bumpy ride. Here are a few tips for surviving the toddler years.
1- Read up on toddler behaviour
Having a better understanding of what developmental changes your child is going through will help you be more patient and give you fundamental tools to tackle these trying years. There are so many excellent resources available. My personal favourites are “No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame” by Janet Lansbury and “The Whole-Brain Child” by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
2- Don’t take it personally
Ah, the meltdowns. Your child will have them, and although you will often be in the line of fire, their tantrums aren’t aimed at you. Take a step back and remember not to take it personally because, well, it isn’t. Once you can remove yourself from the equation, you can better guide your child since you won’t be worrying about your hurt feelings. Children need to learn which behaviours are acceptable and which are not, but the delivery will affect the way your message is received. If you remain calm, the situation won’t escalate, and the lesson you want to convey will be more clear. Toddlers need to feel secure, so you can’t be an emotional wreck every time the kid has a meltdown. Remember, it’s not about you, so don’t beat yourself up thinking you somehow went wrong. These behaviours are totally normal.
3- View the situation from your child’s perspective
Imagine you were going through life unable to control impulses or emotions; you would want some comfort from your caretakers. Seeing it from their side sometimes helps put things in perspective. Something that may seem silly for us (like the color of the cup your son gets his milk in) can be a big deal for them as they are building their personality and learning to assert themselves. Remembering this while they throw their third tantrum of the morning can help you cope a little easier, and better guide them into understanding their emotions until they can more clearly verbalize their needs. Now, I am not saying you should switch out the cup for the color they want, but by remembering where their emotions are coming from, you can remain more level-headed while dealing with the situation based on your chosen method—deep breaths, people.
4- Get enough rest
As moms, we know firsthand what lack of sleep can do to us. Hulk ain’t got nothing on a sleep-deprived momma. Lack of sleep can do a number on us mentally and affect our capacity to reason correctly, making us more impulsive and less patient. Combine this with a toddler meltdown, and you’ve got serious trouble on your hands. Getting enough sleep for yourself is essential at every stage of your child’s development, but raising toddlers is hard enough on a full night of sleep, so we can use all the help we can get. If you have trouble getting enough rest, try introducing a bedtime routine for yourself to help you unwind before bed.
5- Ask for Help and take breaks
The expression “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been more real than during these years. It’s ok to want a break desperately, so normalize asking for help when you need it. Parenting is hard, and toddlers can literally suck the energy right out of us, so don’t hesitate to call up grandma when you can use some quality time to reconnect with yourself (or cry it out over a glass of wine with your friends.) Find moments during the day to unwind or play tag team with your partner so you can each have a breather when you need it. Go for a walk, a run, a drive. Anything that will help clear your mind and regain your composure.
This too shall pass
Like every other phase, all children eventually grow out of toddlerhood. They will learn to communicate more clearly, and it will make everyone’s life easier. Our kids are at an age where they still need us and want us near, so enjoy every cuddle, bedtime story, and every occasion to deepen your bond with your child. This time is full of incredible milestones and so much joy. So don’t despair and make the most of it.