The second half of Stella’s third year has been full of transition. She’s a toddler, and so change is a big deal. I feel for her: first an interstate move and all the change that comes with it–new church, new house, new bedroom, new town, new activities. Then the switch from crib to big girl bed. Next, a new sibling, and potty training.
Here are some tips that I think made things easier for her, and might help your toddler, too, should you find yourself in the same position.
1. Discuss the change, early and often.
This is always my first objective when doing anything new: talk, talk, talk. If it’s something they don’t get to choose whether or not they do, don’t ask them if they want to, or if they think it’s a good idea. Tell them what’s going to happen, in detail, and be enthusiastic! Your excitement will be contagious, and if you’re not particularly happy about it, this is a good way to brainwash yourself into positive thinking.
2. Make the transition a teaching moment.
If you’re moving, pull out a map of your new state or city, and explore it together. Find pictures of landmarks they will see in the new location, or things they might encounter. This will help them already feel familiar and comfortable with a new setting, and grows their understanding of the world in which they live. Moving from Tennessee to Texas has helped Stella start to grasp the idea of states, and watching my pregnancy (and a teeny little part of my labor with Iris) has been a great springboard to discuss pregnancy and birth.
There are lots of books about transitions, as well, so take advantage of your local library or book store. Lots of websites have lists of children’s literature to help them cope with change. Here’s two, from The Art of Simple and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Making something a teaching moment also means staying informed and having answers for when your little ones ask questions.Today I picked up a really great colorful book about how babies are made from my library: What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg. It discusses egg and sperm, the uterus, natural onset of labor vs inductions, and vaginal and cesarian deliveries in an age appropriate way for a toddler. This book does not discuss sex at all, and the author doesn’t use any gender pronouns, nor the words “mom” or “dad,” which I thought was interesting, and particularly helpful for babies who may have been conceived using IVF, or having non-traditional families like mine. A book that tells my child “the egg comes from your mommy and the sperm comes from your daddy” is not useful to me, so I highly recommend this book!
3. Empathize with your toddler when they’re having a hard time.
Manage your expectations, parents and caregivers. It might be rough for a while, you might have some setbacks, it might be stressful. Allow your child to feel however they feel, and remember they are processing in their own way. It can be hard on them, so be gentle and understanding. When everything around them might be changing, YOU are their constant. Speak into that by continuing routines as much as possible.
4. Create restful and relaxing moments for yourself (as well as your little ones).
You’ll need it, whether it is a cup of tea, an end-of-day bubble bath, writing in a prayer journal, or exercise. I quickly learned, after Stella was born, how in-tune kids can be with their caregivers. If I was uptight and stressed out, chances are she would be a mess also. If I focussed on staying calm and positive, she picked up on that and followed suit. The best way to find time for yourself, though life might be hectic during a move, is to plan.
5. Make a detailed transition plan.
This is one of my fortes. Make checklists, a schedule, a sheet of goals and deadlines. Plan your heart out, and include contingency plans if things don’t go your way.
6. Plan times where the youngsters are not around.
You will need time to pack and clean when you don’t also have to watch your kid(s) (and pets). Get a sitter, have a relative take them out for a while, and allow yourself some productive time at home.
7. Advice isn’t law.
I research everything. My father is an outstanding researcher and passed that skill on to his kids. But Google and Pinterest are your friends, not lawmakers for your life. For example, one of the pieces of advice I kept reading, over and over again was “for the sake of your toddler, don’t implement any major changes three months before or three months after a new sibling arrives.” Well, we had to move less than two months before Iris arrived, and then when I was just packing up the baby’s newborn clothes, Stella announced that she “wanted to wear panties all the time” and that she was “ready to potty train.” Ok, I thought, she said it, let’s do this. And we did. Has it been easy? NO. But I am certain that has more to do with Stella’s personality than any other factors. The same goes for your friends and relatives. Just because they did something that works for them doesn’t mean you should do that.Heck, just because I write something in this post doesn’t mean you should do it. 😉
8. Include your child in on the process.
If you’re moving, offer your child a couple choices of paint color for their new room. If you’re potty training, ask them which potty/types of panties they would like. If you’re getting a new bed, have them help you pick out the bedding or frame. New sibling? Take them along to your doctors appointments.
I believe in the power of prayer, and that it can make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of our kids. Pray for patience, guidance, and peace. Pray that you will be able to have good perspective. Pray that you will know God’s presence and see glory come to Him through it all. Pray daily.