Toddler regression

Does your little one experience regression from time to time and start acting younger than their age? It’s not uncommon for toddlers and young children to experience some sort of regression in their early years. We take a look at some of the causes of regression and what you can do to help.
Does your little one experience regression from time to time and start acting younger than their age?

It’s not uncommon for toddlers and young children to experience some sort of regression in their early years.

Toddler regression

As adults, we are accustomed to acquiring new skills at a steady pace and retaining what we learn.

However for young children their learning often depends on their development in other areas, frequently progressing in a series of sudden spurts and periods of little apparent improvement.

It may seem that every now and then your toddler’s behaviour or development is going backwards, but whether it’s regression in their talking, sleeping, feeding or toilet training, there’s usually no need for concern.

We take a look at some of the causes of regression and what you can do to help.

What causes regression?

Regression is a normal reaction in toddlers, often brought on by what’s happening in their environment, their natural developmental milestones or possible changes and upheavals happening in their lives.
For example, has your toilet-trained toddler suddenly started wetting their pants? Has your 4 year old decided to communicate in baby talk again? Or has your formerly independent child started clinging to you constantly.

Children sometimes appear to be going backwards in certain areas while they are developing in others.

Language may take a bit of a slide backwards while your toddler gets to grips with walking. Or they may start waking at night again as they leap ahead with toilet training.
Another reason for regression in children can be as a response to change and upheaval in their life. This could be because of the arrival of a new sibling, a transition in childcare arrangements or a change in family circumstances.

It doesn’t have to be a major upheaval to have an effect on your child’s behaviour. Even changes that might not seem significant to an adult can be disturbing to a small child.

4 Ways to help with toddler regression

Regression can be a worrying and frustrating time for parents.

Here are a few suggestions which might help your toddler going through a phase of regression:

1. Identify the problem

Knowing the reason for the change in your toddler’s behaviour can often provide some reassurance and ideas to help your little one move on to the next stage of their development.

If you can determine the reason for your child’s behavioural backslide it will make it easier to guide them through whatever is affecting them and help them regain their previous level of maturity.

Sometimes it will be fairly obvious why the regression is happening, but other times less clear. For instance, if they have a new sibling they may revert to using a dummy and start talking like a baby again.

2. Provide attention & reassurance

If you know that your child is facing a big milestone or change, try giving them more cuddles and attention.

Sometimes regressing to baby-like behaviour can be a way for your child to tell you that they are feeling a bit vulnerable and want the attention and cuddles they remember getting when they were younger.

Make it clear that it’s normal to feel scared or disoriented sometimes, but that these feelings will soon go away.

3. Do what you can to fix the problem

If there are practical steps you can take to ease your child’s distress, do so as soon as possible.

Perhaps arrange a special time to spend alone with your toddler without their siblings or talk to their caregivers at daycare or kindy about any issues.

If your child is old enough and their language is well developed, try talking to them about their change in behaviour or what's upsetting them. Toddlers often understand more than we realise.

4. Set expectations

Parents can sometimes give more attention to undesirable behaviour, which inadvertently keeps the cycle of regression going.

Give your toddler plenty of attention for appropriate developmental behaviour. Try to support them with positive reinforcements, hugs and praise.

Upsetting as regression can be to parents, it usually doesn’t last very long. In many cases, your toddler will pick up where they left off after a few days or couple of weeks.

Regression in behaviour is generally harmless and a natural part of your child’s development and reaction to their environment. However, in a small number of cases regression can indicate a medical or developmental issue.

If you are at all worried contact your GP to discuss your concerns further.

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Image source: pottytraininguk

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