We’ve all heard of the “terrible twos” — and whether you’ve found yourself dealing with a tough toddler or are simply dreading the arrival of this stage, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: You’ve got this.
Will there be challenging moments? Well….yes. But that can be said for all parts of parenthood, right? Ultimately, all you can do it equip yourself with some great advice, stand your ground, ride out this stage, and savor your little one’s sweet moments.
We caught up with Diane Pelegris, a clinical social worker and therapist who regularly works with children. She shared her top tips on dealing with this trick stage. Diane’s first word of advice for parents dealing with the terrible twos? “Breathe,” she told us. “This won’t last forever!”
…But in the meantime, here’s how you can get through it.
“Toddlers often look to their parents to learn how to navigate situations so a calmer mommy can lead to a calmer kiddo!”
Laugh through the meltdowns
“But not AT them! Juice box battle? Wearing the wrong pj’s? If only all of life’s problems could be like this.”
Name those emotions
“Many times, tantrums continue not because our children aren’t getting what they want but because they’re not feeling understood. Try this next time: say out loud what your toddler is doing and then name the most likely emotion. Example: ‘I can see you crying and slamming your hands down. You must feel so angry!'”
“Literally, get down to their level when trying to talk with your little one. Being eye-to-eye makes them more likely to listen to you.”
Work with your littles
“Toddlers have few, if any, good coping skills. After naming what they might be feeling, offer a few things that might comfort them- a hug, a walk, taking a deep breath together. They won’t know to do these things on their own at first… or for a few years… keep at it!”
“When your toddler wants to try something fun, like say, hurling themselves off the kitchen counter, you can remind them that you want to make sure they are safe and healthy. Saying ‘no because you’ll get hurt’ might make children grow up fearful but reminding them to be safe can help remind them to look before leaping.”
Give ’em some options
“Give your toddler at least 2 appropriate options. Toddlers are all about being independent so help foster this for them by allowing them to explore their likes and dislikes while having some control.”
Don’t let your kids skimp on sleep
“Toddlers need sleep. 11-14 hours is recommended. Seriously.”
“The toddler brain will not be able to manage impulses, share with other children consistently- especially THAT toy, or allow your kiddo to sit still for long periods of time. Expect this and accept it. Just know, they will grow past this.”
Know their feelings are real
Toddlers have real feelings just like adults. Show them the same consideration you’d show your partner or best friend. If your best friend is crying, you’d never tell them to just stop. You’d more likely ask them what happened or offer some sort of consolation.
About the expert: Diane Pelegris received her Masters in social work from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work. She is a clinical social worker with experience in providing grief counseling for children, using therapeutic recreation with children and adolescents, providing therapy for women and children survivors of domestic violence as well as for adolescents residing in a group home setting and in therapeutic schools with students with special needs. Diane has provided services to individuals ranging from early childhood to adulthood through individual, group, and family sessions.”