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How frustrating is it when a child in your care starts having toileting accidents when they have been potty trained for over a year? Do you see children refusing to climb up the stairs when they were perfectly capable of doing so yesterday?

You may be seeing regression happening in these children. Children often respond to stress by taking a step back developmentally.

What can cause regressive behaviour in a child? There are many reasons why, and they all have to do with a significant change in your child’s routine and comfort zone. Maybe there is a new baby at home. Or it could be the disruption of schedules due to COVID-19,  that are negatively impacting your child.

 It’s no wonder that many of us are seeing an uptake in regressive behaviour!

The one thing that these children are asking for is your reassurance and support. They are already feeling bad; they don’t need you to make them feel worse by shaming them for their regressions.

Six Steps to Dealing with Regression in General:

  • Be kind. Empathize with the changes and losses the child is going through. Validate their experience. They’ll probably need to express their feelings before they can cooperate with efforts to behave more maturely. Little children have big feelings that they aren’t skilled at managing yet.
  • Maintain consistent routines. Help them take back control. Give them choices whenever possible. Maybe they need to hold your hand while out on a walk or want to help you and be near you. We all need reassurance from time to time.
  • Take breaks. Are you and your child becoming more frustrated lately? Decide which activities are “non-negotiable” (i.e., handwashing, bedtime, going to school.) You can choose many battles to avoid (i.e., eating a bite of everything on your plate, what to wear, allowing them to spend more time in activities they are enjoying). Choose to avoid power struggles by being more flexible. Participate in the fun and silly activities that you can enjoy as well.
  • Move around. On the other hand, physical exercise relieves stress too. Spontaneous dance parties, animal yoga or a quick game of tag in the back yard will alleviate their stress as well as yours.
  • Enjoy nature. Just spending time outdoors can make you feel happier. Find any excuse you can to be out in nature, no matter the weather. If that fails, bring nature inside. Put away the Mini Pops CD and opt for crashing waves or bird sounds instead.
  • Be a role model. Your mood affects everyone around you, especially the child experiencing regressive behaviour. Remaining calm and cheerful when they slip will show them how to be more resilient, and the mirror neurons in their brain will help your child start calming down.

Whether it’s triggered by a virus or a new baby brother, regressive behaviour is likely to fade away over time. Meanwhile, the best way for you to help is to remain a stable, loving and calm force in their lives.

And remember, this too shall pass.

 

Written by Sharon Ness, Director of Early Learning and Child Care Services, Kids U

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