I thought perhaps he was just moody. Maybe a bit shy. I considered him to be “extra sensitive,” but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. At his three year check-up, I was told it was just a phase. That I should ignore and not encourage the outburst or tantrums with any extra attention, and they soon would go away. Frustration and heartache made each day feel like years until the day I embraced my instincts and let go of the advice from fellow moms and peers. I finally admitted my son had toddler anxiety. I saw my son’s needs clearly, and I quickly learned to cope. Now my once anxious toddler’s heart is filled with peace and hope.
Today I’m sharing with you how we’ve dealt with toddler anxiety with our three year old. It’s been a journey for certain. I’m no medical expert, but I’m hoping you will find some answers in this article that might encourage or enlighten you if you’re dealing with similar issues with your little one. Since acknowledging our son’s anxiety, we have been much more effective communicators. Instead of hitting parenting roadblocks, we’ve been able to thrive and encourage our toddler with simple changes that anyone can implement. His behavior and confidence have improved so much. I’m positive that he is at his very happiest, which makes my mama heart oh so very full! When dealing with anxiety in toddlers, it’s important to remember “The Four R’s Of Toddler Anxiety.”
The Four “R’s” of Toddler Anxiety
To establish if your child is becoming overwhelmed or anxious, be on the lookout for triggers. Does your daughter act out in public around strangers? Or does your son become out of sorts when you have large gatherings of relatives in your home? Does your child experience major separation anxiety whenever you leave the room, even for just brief periods? Recognizing behavioral changes and mood swings triggered by situational changes can be a sign of anxiety. Try and be aware of what causes anxiety-driven emotions such as fear, anger, or withdrawal in your child. Make a mental note of what makes them uncomfortable so you can begin to target and work on those concerns individually.
Comforting an anxious child can sometimes be like talking to a brick wall. They’ve begun to tantrum out of fear, and they get so completely worked up that your opportunity to rationalize with them has quickly gone up in smoke. We have found that reassuring our child before a potentially triggering situation is our best shot at avoiding an anxiety attack. Often, simply describing the coming series of events in a brief and positive way garners the most success.
For example, “This afternoon we’re going to visit the dentist. Your teeth will be cleaned, and you will get a sticker when we leave for being SO good! What type of stickers do you think the dentist will have?” Or, “Mommy is going to drop you off at Sunday School for about an hour. You will get to play with some new toys and make some new friends. Your teacher, Mrs. X, will watch you and read to you while I attend church, but I will pick you up very soon”. Repeating often what your child can expect takes the mystery and fear out of what is to come, especially in an unfamiliar situation, so be sure to remind them frequently in a short, sweet, and positive way.
We are all aware that sleep is SO important for our toddlers, but did you know that lack of sleep can make anxiety increasingly worse? If you have a toddler who is already anxiety-prone, and you combine that with an overtired toddler, you’ve just created a recipe for disaster. Be sure your little guy or gal is getting enough sleep, and don’t be too quick to cut naps out of your daily routine. And speaking of routine…
Anxious toddlers thrive on routine. Set them up for success by sticking to a routine that they help influence. We have found that keeping order to our day provides comfort to our child. He loves knowing what’s up next on our agenda and being an involved helper with tasks on our to-do list. The independence and confidence he has gained from having his own routine are immeasurable.
Do you have an anxious toddler? Have you tried any of these coping techniques? We’d love to hear how you address the stress!