What Causes Toddler Regression

Your toddler acts comfortable with Grandma and Grandpa.  Then suddenly he or she has a big meltdown when the grands arrive to take your toddler to the zoo.  Welcome to the insanity of toddler development.  Today, your munchkin just wants to sit on the living room floor and play with an empty box.  You thought you would catch up on cleaning or work, but no way will that take place now.  What happened, and what caused toddler regression in your once-happy child? 

It Might Not be Toddler Regression

toddler regression might be glasses or hat
Even just glasses or a new hat could trigger a meltdown

Instead of an actual regression, there could be another trigger causing the meltdown.  Sometimes babies reject one of the grandparents, (or other family members) based on new facial hair, glasses or a hat.  In other instances the rejection could stem from a strong smell like perfume, tobacco, or coffee.  But a rejection could be a symptom of stress your child is feeling.  It might be unrelated to the person he or she is rejecting.  Instead it could be centered around other aspects of an event or just household currents. 

If, for instance, you talked about the trip to share the excitement, your child might be nervous about the new experience.  Children might also be nervous about being away from Mommy or Daddy too long.  None of these reactions are permanent, though they can be frustrating and will  thwart your own plans for the day.

Actual Regression is Common Too

Toddler’s regression is common when your child seems about to take a big step forward, socially or developmentally.  Then suddenly they refuse to be around anyone other than mommy or daddy, or refuse to use the toilet.  Regression usually appears as a toddler acting in a younger or needier way.  It could appear in more tantrums, immature talk or a loss of skills like potty training.  Maybe your child is whinier, clingier or needs more bottle time.  Whichever symptom you see, toddler regression is a common step during child development. 

Maybe it will help to think of regression as coming before a big step forward. It happens in much the same way a child grows a little chunkier just before a growth spurt. Some children sort of prepare themselves to take on more responsibility by first taking a big step backward.

What’s a Parent to do?

Let your child know they are safe with you. 

What to do if you face toddler regression

Knowing toddler regression is a stage of development may help you remember to reassure your child.  It’s important to recognize the regressive behavior without shaming them.  Think in terms of: “You are learning so many new things and we’re proud of you.  It’s ok that sometimes you feel like you need my help.”  Your toddler still needs to know they are safe and supported while they work through their struggle.

Seeing toddler regression? Play with your child. 

Through imaginative play, parents can learn a lot about what their child is feeling or struggling with. Toddlers don’t yet have the words to express what they feel but you can use play to get those messages.

When Should a Parent be Concerned About Regressions?

If toddler regression lasts longer than two or three weeks, check with your pediatrician.  If you can pinpoint the regression’s cause, you might be able to help your toddler work through it faster. Sometimes clinginess isn’t a regression.  If your child is simply reacting to a new face or smell you can still help them work through it.  It will help to have the grandparents visit with you present. 

Keep Calm and Keep Sammy’s Milk Handy

Try to avoid making a fuss over the canceled event, even if you want to explode.  Chances are, before your whining, crazy, clingy toddler goes to sleep, they’ll give you a big kiss and you’ll melt.  Until then, hang in there.  Keep calm and keep Sammy’s Milk handy. Because while it won’t prevent regressions and meltdowns, it promotes clean healthy development for your toddler.  And Sammy’s Singles stick packs are convenient to take with you when you take your toddler to the zoo instead.

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