5 Ways to Help a Toddler in Distress

iStock_000000208763SmallToddlers certainly add excitement to our lives, don’t they? One minute they’re on top of the world singing and dancing across the living room. And the next, they’re a pile of tears on the kitchen floor. They can often seem like a ticking emotional time bomb. We’re never quite sure what will set them off.

But often, at the heart of their discontent or frustration, is the inability to communicate or feel understood.

And you can imagine how frustrating that might be.

So the next time the toddler near and dear to your heart is in distress, try this:

Name their feelings. When your toddler is angry or sad. Just say so. It might seem obvious, but your toddler wants to know that you get her. She’s mad because she can’t “wash” her shoe in the toilet. Absurd as it may sound; simply say: you are so angry because you really want to wash your shoe in the toilet. No, it doesn’t make sense but it will make your tot feel better.

Say what you know they want to say. Your toddler is crying, on the edge of a full blown tantrum and you know exactly why. He wants to play longer at the park but you’ve got a baby on your hip who needs to eat. It’s time to go. Instead of scooting him along, tears and all. Take a moment and say what he would want to say: I know, you don’t want to leave. You want to stay longer and play on the swings. I know you want to stay. How about 2 more minutes? Then we really need to go.

Listen. Just be still and listen. Sometimes we all just need to be heard. Even if those on the receiving end have no clue what we’re saying.

Teach her sign language. When it comes to the toddler years, there is a definite disconnect between brain development and speech ability. It’s so frustrating to them that they can’t say/convey to you what they want or are thinking. Teach them a few essential signs like please/more/milk/all done. It gives them some autonomy and control and has averted many a parent/toddler misunderstanding.

Offer an alternative. So your toddler likes to bite when he’s excited and happy to see someone? Well, he can’t say Hi! I’m so happy to see you! Let’s go play! So, believe it or not, the teeth come out. Give him another way to show excitement…like jumping up and down and clapping or teach him how to give high 5′s.

Toddlers just want to be understood. And don’t we all? Help the toddler in your life get through these bumps in the road with a little empathy and understanding.

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