5 Ways I Helped my Toddler Adjust to a Heck of a Lot of Change
2018 was a big year for us, and a bigger year for our three year old. We moved in with my parents, discovered that we were pregnant, her great grandpa died after a tough battle with cancer, she started dance classes, started preschool, moved out of my parents, and, post baby, one parent was constantly in the NICU with her little brother. This was a lot of big changes for one little girl, but she handled it all really well. Here’s what worked.
Focusing on how this change affects her
With everything that happened, we always focused on her. Toddlers are self-centered and our explanations had to be also. I laid out explicitly what would change for her so that she could set her expectations appropriately.
Sugar coating what was about to happen was unproductive. We learned quickly that when we talked about the change, we had to tell her about EVERYTHING- good and bad. Some things she couldn’t really grasp the meaning of (like how a baby brother meant she would have to share her parents, toys, and room) but we had to prepare her regardless
Making it as exciting as possible
Changes are scary, especially for little kids. Some of these changes were really scary, or hard to understand. When her papa died, we introduced the concept of heaven and explained that he wasn’t sick any more (She had known he was very sick for months, and had often wanted to help him feel better). When we were moving, the idea of living with her Mimi and Papa was very enticing- and so was the idea of having her own room and a “new house” when we moved out. School was harder, as she was scared of being somewhere new without her parents for the first time and the drive there was difficult for us. I made a playlist of her favorite songs, and we would leave much earlier than necessary to spend time in the car together singing along in the parking lot. We also repeated the mantra “mama drops me off, daddy picks me up” until that changed when her brother was born.
Giving her as much notice as possible
We started preparing her for the changes as soon as they became more certain possibilities. Surprising her wouldn’t do us any favors; she needed both time to adjust and time to prepare for that adjustment. Waiting to tell her only meant less time for her to ask questions or think about what her new life would entail.
Rolling with the punches
We couldn’t fully prepare her for everything. She’s three. Some things are just more complex than she can understand. Some things had to be explained multiple times before she finally realized things were different. She asked for her papa more than once after his death, and we just had to keep reminding her that he wasn’t available any more. She was scared of the hospital until she finally remembered that the doctors and nurses she was so afraid of were there to help. She didn’t understand why her brother wasn’t coming home with her mommy.
Life can change drastically very quickly and we as parents aren’t always prepared to navigate it ourselves, let alone help little humans understand it. What worked for us may not work for you, and it may be hard to do some of the things necessary to help them understand. Here’s hoping that 2019 only brings good changes to all of us.