Whether you’re returning to work, or your toddler is starting playgroup or pre-school, the separation can be a tricky time for both of you. Try not to let your toddler pick up on your anxieties, advises Lorraine Thomas of The Parent Coaching Academy. ‘Remember to keep your language positive when you talk about being apart,’ she says. ‘Instead of saying, “I’m going to miss you,” say, “I’m looking forward to hearing about your day later.”‘ It also helps to build up the sessions gradually, starting with one or two mornings a week, so your child is eased into a new routine.
It’s one of life’s most stressful events. ‘One way to help your child settle in is by helping her “take charge” of her room,’ says Lorraine. ‘Pack her things within easy reach so when you get to your new home your toddler can help you ‘unpack’. If you’re not moving far, don’t switch toddler group or nursery, and avoid other potentially stressful situations, such as potty training.
‘It’s challenging,’ agrees Lorraine. ‘But you are your child’s most powerful role model – be calm and encourage your child to be the same. A positive outlook works wonders!’
Going through a break-up
This is a painful time, and your toddler won’t understand why his parents aren’t getting along. ‘If you’re separating, talk to him about the changes,’ says Lorraine. ‘Of course, you want to make everything right, but acknowledge that your child is sad and tell him it’s OK to feel sad. Explain that he’ll still see his other parent, and that it’s happening for good reasons.’ Agree on access and sharing childcare. Don’t bad-mouth your ex in front of your toddler, either. ‘Try not to feel guilty – focus on the positives, rather than what your child is missing out on,’ Lorraine suggests.
Going on holiday
Holidays or weekend breaks with friends or family are a great time for toddlers to get used to new foods, new places and for you to relax a bit about routines. ‘We have high expectations of holidays,’ explains Lorraine. ‘It can be stressful, but if you accept there will be a degree of change, you’ll be more relaxed,’ she says. However this doesn’t mean it has to be complete chaos; you can still keep certain things consistent – and if your little ones have some late nights or more ice creams than usual, make a point that this is a special holiday treat.
Having a new baby
A new brother or sister can be tricky for toddlers to cope with – suddenly there is competition for your attention, which can trigger uncooperative behaviour. ‘Suddenly she has to share you and she’ll demand your attention more,’ says Lorraine. In the run-up to the birth, talk to your toddler about the baby, read books about new siblings, and ask her to help you get the baby’s room ready. Keep other changes to a minimum so your toddler won’t be overwhelmed. Once the baby arrives, find one-to-one time with your toddler. ‘Praise your toddler when she is being good and helping you look after the baby,’ says Lorraine.