Just as you begin to think that you have the infant stage figured out, your child transitions to toddlerhood. You are now sprung into a whole new world of challenges. So often we talk about the sleepless nights of infancy, and the transition to parenthood. But what about the transition to being the parent of a toddler?
During my own transition to life as the mom of a toddler, I found myself overwhelmed with the way that toddlerhood will test your ability to self-regulate, communicate effectively, and set boundaries with others. It was exhausting, in a different way than those sleepless newborn nights!
As you grow with your child, and transition to life as the parent of a toddler, it is normal for thoughts of anxious self-doubt to arise. You may be left wondering, am I doing this right? One of my favorite skills to teach clients is – talk back to your anxiety! Next time you find yourself struggling with the transition, use these truths to challenge negative thoughts when they pop up. You can even try repeating them back to yourself, as an affirmation or a mantra.
1. Relationship changes are normal and to be expected:
In the toddler years, you may notice that your relationships are changing. Not only with yourself but with everyone around you. You and your partner may be adjusting to new routines and contributions to your family, feeling overwhelmed and touched out, and your sex life dwindling. You may also be experiencing changing family relationships as you continue to set boundaries and communicate the unique values and preferences of your family with extended family.
Perhaps you are struggling to communicate with your co-parent, or as a single parent, you are struggling to find the right support system for you. Your relationships with friends may change as you have differing priorities and challenging schedules. If you are the birthing parent, your relationship with your body will change. You may feel pressure to be a certain body size by the time your child is a toddler.
Focus on appreciating your body for all that it has done for you and your child. Prioritize putting your limited time and energy into relationships that make you feel good. As your toddler gains some independence, remember that it is necessary to carve out time for self-care and not let mom guilt get in the way Creating time for yourself will help you to show up as your best self in all of your relationships!
After some self-care, I encourage you to have those difficult conversations with the people in your life. With changing relationships, can come changing boundaries. Communicate your new boundaries to the people around you.
2. Prepare to be triggered:
As the parent of a toddler, you may notice yourself feeling triggered by your child often. This can look like your child melting down over you giving them the snack that they had just asked for. Or perhaps you gave them the wrong cup, or cut their sandwich wrong. You raise your voice or become hot, flustered, and overwhelmed.
In the toddler years, with new behaviors comes new parenting challenges. This can bring about frequent conversations between you and your partner or co-parent on how you would like to parent and discipline. Use this opportunity to explore your childhood with your co-parent or support network. Talk about triggers and ways you can support each other and tackle parenting challenges together.
For example, if dinner time is overwhelming for you, your partner can take over meal-related meltdowns while you plan to tackle bath time. If you are a single parent, you can try journaling about your triggers and identify a self-care plan. Share important values and preferences with your support network or the other adults in your child’s life such as teachers.
3. The transition to parenthood changes your sense of self and identity. It is ok if you are still figuring out who you are right now!
The toddler years come with their own unique sets of challenges that can impact your identity. Perhaps you are navigating the transition back to work, or working on creating a successful routine for your day as a stay-at-home parent. After the initial adjustment with a baby, it is common for parents in the toddler years to re-explore their identity. You may notice that you are ready to connect to yourself more as your child becomes increasingly independent. Now might be a good time to lean on your social support and check out that museum you have always wanted to visit or sign up for that class you have always wanted to try!
4. Listen to your gut:
We are bombarded with pictures and images on social media, increasing the pressure we put on ourselves to parent or present a certain way. We all come from different cultures and have different values related to parenting. Try not to compare yourself to others or judge. Remember social media is just a highlight reel. Explore and identify your parenting values to increase your confidence in your parenting decisions. Trust your gut, no one knows your toddler better than you!
5. Ensure time for self-care:
The toddler years can be very overwhelming. As the parent of a toddler, you may experience sensory overload, feeling overwhelmed by the noises and intensity that is life with a toddler. Many parents of toddlers feel touched out by the end of the day. A snuggle at the end of the night before bed may feel like just one touch too much, as you notice your body tense up and feel like it is going to explode. All of these experiences can be a normal part of the transition to toddlerhood.
Although a typical part of the experience for many parents, we often feel isolated in these moments. I encourage all parents of toddlers to take care of themselves, but also to make connections with others. Community and connection are key in navigating the transition to toddlerhood!
Parenting a toddler can bring up many overwhelming emotions, and even trauma triggers from childhood. Lean into your support network, and if you don’t have one that feels right just yet, keep looking. Look into local support and resources like mom or parent groups to connect with other individuals in the same stage of life.
Receive Parenting Help in Scotch Plains, NJ, Branchburg, Westfield, and Beyond
If you are struggling to cope with the transition and it is impacting your parenting in a way that does not feel good for you, a trained therapist can help you to identify your parenting values so that you can feel empowered to parent in the way that you envision! Start your therapy journey with Brave Minds by following these simple steps:
Contact us for a free video consultation.
Learn more about our Postpartum Therapy and Maternal Mental Health Services
- Start being the best parent you can be!
Other Services Offered With Brave Minds Psychological Services
Parenting support isn’t the only service offered by Brave Minds Psychological Services. Our team is happy to provide a variety of mental health services to support adults, teens, and children. We offer counseling for parents along with postpartum counseling, and birth trauma therapy. We also offer teen anxiety treatment, social phobia therapy for teens, child sexual abuse therapy, child anxiety treatment, and more. If you are wanting to connect with peers going through similar struggles we offer several options for group therapy. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains and Branchburg, NJ offices and through telehealth counseling in New Jersey.