For many parents, the toddler years are a pendulum swinging between outbursts and outright cuteness.
Mood swings, temper tantrums and multiple wardrobe changes; I’m not talking about pop star divas. Oh no, I’m talking about toddlerhood. Welcome to a world where the wrong color sippy cup can induce drama. The days of sweetly cuddling your infant have come and gone, and your gentle baby is now a little person with a lot of personality.
As a first-time mom who gingerly entered toddlerhood with my spunky daughter, I compiled a list of ways we can not only survive but also thrive through this somewhat intimidating stage of our children’s lives.
1. Keep healthy snacks on hand.
Nothing is worse than being stuck out and about running errands with a hungry toddler. I cannot tell you how many times my handy little bag of raisins or a banana saved the day when my growing 16-month-old seemed to have turned into a ravenous bear. (Helpful tip: Turns out, the banana is not only a great snack but also doubles as a great toddler cellphone. Oh, the conversations my daughter had on her banana phone!)
2. Connect with other parents.
Connecting with other moms and dads who “get it” can truly be a lifesaver. I love my daughter, but sometimes it’s nice to talk with actual adults and have actual conversations. Likewise, I’m sure my daughter loves me, but I know she really wants and needs the company of people her age that she can learn and play with. Play dates with other families are a win-win situation for all involved. As someone who was one of the first in my group of friends to have a baby, I was intimidated by reaching out to local moms I hadn’t met and forming friendships, especially as an introvert. Every time I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, I was rewarded with community that was healthy for both me and my daughter.
3. Take a deep breath.
When meltdown mode happens (usually in the middle of the store or somewhere public) it can be hard for us to keep it together. No matter how much we may plan ahead and prepare ourselves, sometimes our little ones have big emotions that can be overwhelming for them. When all of my other steps to ensure a smooth day have failed and a full-blown tantrum has ensued, sometimes the only way to get through it was to take a deep breath and get on my toddler’s level. I found that when I approached the situation with empathy and understanding, rather than through gritted teeth, I was much better able to calmly guide my daughter through her feelings and frustrations. I reminded myself that she had only a few words and ways to communicate her wants, needs and emotions. Pair that with her newfound sense of independence and we were bound to hit a few bumps in the road.
If I allowed her temper tantrum to influence my behavior negatively, I found it incredibly difficult for both of us to recover and readjust. It could affect the rest of our day. The simple practice of a big deep breath saved my attitude and helped us navigate toddler tantrums. (Trust me, though, there were days when even all of the deep breathing practices in all the world still couldn’t touch the struggle of raising a toddler and landed me curled up in the fetal position singing “Kumbaya.” Can I get a witness?)
4. Treat yourself.
This one can be tough. Toddlerhood requires a huge investment of time and energy and can leave us feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted. I often found myself questioning whether I was doing it “right” or if I was everything my daughter needed me to be. However, I was reminded that I must have been doing OK when my daughter picked up one of her baby dolls and hugged and patted its back just as I did to her when she woke up from a nap.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in doubt, exhaustion and trying our best that we forget to invest in who we are separate from our roles as parents. Sometimes, investing in ourselves simply means starting with carving out 15 or 20 minutes to ourselves daily. I usually found this time after I got her to bed and I enjoyed a relaxing bath. I learned also that it’s important to not only treat myself but also to invest in the things about which I’m passionate. It took me a while to even identify what those things even were, but by allowing myself to have some daily quiet time, I was able to get in touch with who I was again. That felt great.
I’m sure there are lots more tears (and not just from our toddlers) to come, but with some deep breaths, a little support and love from other parents, and some TLC for ourselves, we can navigate the ups and downs that are toddlerhood.
This post was written by Sydney Hutson, a quirky and relentlessly sassy 20-something who loves dancing, thrifting, creating, theology and loving on others. She wrote letters to her daughter on her blog, Dear London June.
Do you have tips for raising your toddler a little easier? Share them below in the comments section.