Two- to three-year-olds are the most prone to wanting to relive aspects of their babyhood. When tired they may want to be carried or fed as they were when they were a baby. Young toddlers and preschoolers will also regress when their family life undergoes a significant rise in its stress level. Sometimes a previously potty trained toddler will refuse to use the potty chair, or a child who has previously slept uneventfully through the night will begin night awakenings. This is known as regression. Regression happens as a form of adaptation in response to a child's feeling stressed, unsafe or less secure, and more threatened than previously. It is a defense mechanism and, without it, a child might become totally overwhelmed by the anxiety and could become nearly paralyzed in dealing with his life. Regression makes the stress more manageable and less threatening.
Parents who are prepared for temporary setbacks connected with high stress levels are better able to accept their child's regres sion without anxiety and are better prepared to allow their children to work out their needs in their own way. When we permit an older toddler or preschooler to talk baby talk, suck on a bottle, or eat like a baby, we are accepting him the way he is right now trusting full well that soon enough he will gather his own resources to regain his previous stage of development. You are their safe harbor—you are their secure base and safe port in a storm. You are the only place they feel safe to revert to some of the old comfortable behaviors that they recall brought them much comfort.
Parents should stay as calm as possible about their child's transient developmental setbacks. Try not to view his behaviors as a failure of your parenting or a reason to feel guilty. Usually, as soon as the family's stressful period abates, your child will return to his previous functioning level.
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