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Session notes for Helping toddlers cope with stress Stages: 19 to 24 months


Toddlers can feel frustrated and stressed when they want to do things for themselves but don’t have the skills to do it. Being unable to explain what they want to do is also frustrating.

Page 21 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 says: ‘Pēpi copes with stress much better when he feels safe and secure in your love’.

Ask the whānau:

Have you noticed any signs that your toddler could be stressed? Signs can include:

  • changes in sleeping and eating
  • changes in emotions — being sad, more anxious, withdrawn, clingy or angry
  • more crying or tantrums
  • fears and nightmares
  • needing to self soothe more with thumb sucking, using a dummy or a comfort object.

Because toddlers can’t yet say what they’re feeling, adults have to look for signs that might indicate their child is experiencing stress, like the ones listed above. Ask:

  • Have you noticed any of those behaviours from your child?
  • Yes? Can you tell me what happened?
  • What did you do to help relieve your toddler’s stress?
  • What do you think might be stressful for them?

Brain science tells us that feeling stressed often and for too long can be harmful to a child’s healthy development. That’s why it’s important to help a toddler to learn how to get back to a calm state.

Here are some other ideas that might be useful for helping kids avoid stress:

Keep to familiar routines for eating and sleeping.

  • What sort of routines do you have around eating and sleeping for your tamaiti?

Keep calm.

  • Can you tell me about how you manage when things get stressful for you?

Give extra one-to-one time and attention.

  • What sort of opportunities do you have to give your tamaiti one-to-one attention?

Have a balance of quiet time and active time during the day.

  • What ways have you found to get that balance of activity and quiet times for your tamaiti throughout the day?

Watch for ‘over scheduling’ of a toddler’s day.

  • What sort of pace of activities do you have for your tamaiti? How do you make sure they’re not too busy?

Name their feelings for them.

  • Have you found a way to talk with your tamaiti that helps them explain their feelings?

If possible, introduce big changes (such as moving to a big bed or changing child care) in stages to give them time to adjust.

  • How do you plan your toddler’s day when there’s a lot going on in the household?

Provide extra reassuring hugs and kisses.

  • When you look at the baby wall frieze, what does it remind you to do?

Share picture books about toddlers who get upset but who can return to calm again.

  • What books or stories have you found are helpful for talking about feelings with  your tamaiti?

Monitor what they’re watching on TV, as some programmes can cause or increase anxiety.

  • What effect do some television programmes have on your child/children?

We can’t prevent stress, but we can help a child learn coping strategies, and we can offer them love and support.

Lots of play activities are particularly soothing for stressed kids. These include sand, water, play dough, bubble blowing and any activities that are favourites for the tamaiti. This may include snuggling up with a whānau member for a story or a book, or singing, dancing and moving to music.

We can also look at ara mātua — parenting pathways  for 19-24 months. By providing tamaiti with an environment where parental behaviours reflect ngā ara mātua will not only help their general well-being but also help them to develop strategies to handle the stresses and strains of everyday life.

How does this relate to the SKIP resources?

Baby Wall Frieze - Kōrero mai, e aroha ana koe ki ahau - tell me you love

Six things children need - Te ārahi me te māramatanga - guidance and understanding

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