Reaching milestones and watching your children master skills brings unimaginable pride as a parent and reinforces that everything you are doing, every little piece of yourself you are giving, is actually working. This is why it is incredibly difficult to process and understand when you start to feel like things are moving backwards. It is normal for children to rely on their parent(s) at times, and even to change their comfort level in any given area, yet the switch can catch us by surprise and even lead to frustration.
Recently, Big A has been seeking more reassurance at transitional times, specifically occasions where he will be separated from me. I realize this is a normal part of toddlerhood and preschool-age, but the shift has caught me off guard given that Big A has always been incredibly independent and has not previously had difficulty at drop off or bedtime. In order to grasp the situation more fully I reflected on a few important questions that I typically ask of parents presenting a similar situation throughout my practice:
Consideration of these questions led to a better sense of where the changes in Big A's behavior might be stemming from. On one hand he has recently begun the transition away from naps (a difficult change for the adults and the child). The change from one nap to none has been significantly more difficult than it was to drop the morning nap as a toddler. While every day involves some "rest time" it is only every few days that Big A will actually fall asleep. This in turn leads to a slightly variable bedtime given that non-nap days result in a very tired preschooler and very challenging evening routine. An important strategy in managing this has been establishing an extra long wind-down routine. Essentially, our bedtime story time has been extended in order to account for 1) an overtired child on the days there is not nap or 2) the need for a calming period before the slightly later bedtime on days there is a nap.
Another factor that emerged is greater awareness of how parent work schedules have adjusted as Daddy approaches a major deadline. This has led to less weekend time as a family and less time for the boys to see Daddy. While this shift has unfolded over the last six weeks, and is not a permanent change (thankfully), we have made a few adjustments in order to support how the boys internalize this difference in our family.
Every stage brings opportunity for cognitive, social, and emotional growth, however, each of these elements develops at a slightly different pace and varies from child to child. As parents we can support our children as they negotiate each new element along the way. Reflecting the past few weeks on Big A's expressions of emotional need have been a helpful reminder just how little preschoolers are despite the incredible accomplishments they demonstrate each and every day.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.
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