Only three months left in this crazy year. Routines have been disrupted, plans have been changed, and life looks different now than it did six months ago. To say 2020 has brought up a range of emotions for us all is an understatement. As a mom to a toddler, I want to set a good example to help him manage his emotions, as I also wade through my own as well. This August, my son turned two and along with more independence came big feelings. Tantrums at this age are inevitable, but there have been a few things that are helping to lower the intensity and help us through them.
1. Establishing a hard rule of when Mom or Dad has to say “no”.
That means whenever my son is unsafe or putting others at risk we will say no first then explain our reasoning. “No, you cannot climb on the counter. You are allowed to be upset, but that is unsafe.” Everything else can be approached with redirection or explaining the situation. “Let’s give your car a bath outside instead of playing in the sink while daddy cooks dinner.”
2. Validating my son’s feelings provides him with control over his emotions.
“I can see you are frustrated that it is time to clean up your toys before dinner.”
Teaching my son to express his needs/wants has made a huge difference in our day. The praise when he started using his words to communicate instead of cries or whines was abundant. We still continue positive reinforcement to indicate we love and appreciate his verbal communication.
3. Modeling an appropriate response
This is the most difficult for us, but my husband and I try to remain calm and let our son know it will be okay. It is helpful for my son to hear us model a response “when I am frustrated I take a deep breath in and let it out, like blowing out a birthday candle”. Providing an alternative to throwing items on the floor, we suggest stomping his feet or jumping three times. These two examples help him to get through those big feelings in a more productive way.
The previous tips have derived from the practice of Dr. Rebecca Kennedy, a clinical psychologist in New York City. She offers wonderful parenting resources on her blog or @drbeckyathome.
How These Strategies Have Helped Me Get Through 2020
Reflecting on the last few months, I learned just as much as my son about processing how I feel. I can now confidently validate how I, and many, feel about 2020 – it sucks. That doesn’t change anything, but I now recognize what I am feeling and figure out a more productive response. I recognize how difficult it is to be pregnant during a pandemic, but I can choose to be grateful for what I can control. Sometimes it saddens me knowing I won’t have the same experiences with this little one. Then I remember to smile thinking about the opportunities I did have with my son and figure out ways to create new memories altogether.
Regardless if you are a mama to littles, an empty-nester, or awaiting the arrival of your little one, we’ve got this! It’s okay to feel all the things, you are allowed to. Just remember to keep going and do the best you can.