Blending Your StepFamily 39: Parenting Toddlers During A Divorce or Separation (12-24 Months)

Toddlers are quite the explorers, they have so much to learn and see and experience.  He is walking, running, climbing, jumping all with wonder and excitement.  Each new experience is building the child’s sense of self.  When he falls down and we lovingly kiss him better, when he giggles at a new found fun and we join in with delight; he is learning to trust not only his environment but also the love and support of his parents.

This positive impact of our reactions to his new world, are important.  The encouragement and consistency in our reactions to his discoveries contributes to his joy, courage and perseverance as he explores his world.  That foundation of trust formed earlier is imperative to his next developmental stage of autonomy.  He is learning to view himself as a separate person.

Your toddler has a sense of being separate from their parents.  They experience anger even though they are unable to understand it and don’t know how to manage it.  They may have a tantrum or hit or bite, display irritability or even withdraw emotionally for a time.  These are ways they express their anger.  They cannot describe it but if these behaviors are expressed, and you realize they are upset about something, talk to them about it.  Toddlers understand more than we give them credit for.  Ask such things as:  “Are you sad that Mommy is not here”?   Give him reassurance that you are there for him and that he will see mommy soon (if that is the case).  Validate that it’s okay to feel sad but it’s not okay to hit or throw things or bite.  Be consistent with what you will and will not accept.

What you can do:

Show lots of affection and patience.  They are exploring new territory that neither of you has gone to before. Some of these actions include firm guidelines for naps, bedtime rituals, meal times, and play times. Extra time and patience may be needed to prepare toddlers for these daily activities when they are feeling stressed. To develop a strong parent/child attachment means both parents must spend time with the child. Playing with your child helps to form deep attachment.

Some activities that toddlers love to do are playing peek a boo, drawing, perhaps swimming, going for walks, reading a book together, going to the park or playing on the floor with toys or objects.  Boys also love to house rough.  I remember watching my son rough house with my grandson at the age of six months on.  They would roll around on the carpet and my son would fly him all over the house, my grandson loved it.   Toddlers love wholesome interaction in whatever form we give it.  Singing and dancing is something you can do together or listen to music.  Also, playing in front of the mirror is usually a favorite for toddlers.  Bath time can be a really fun time with water toys and splashing and bubbles.

Toddler’s can understand that one parent is no longer in the home but they will not understand why.  Developmentally, toddlers unlike babies can worry and can become anxious when the residential parent is gone.  Separation Anxiety, the fear of not being in constant contact with a parent, can occur sometime after the baby is eight-months-old.  This can result in more crying and clinging behavior, or eating or sleeping disruptions.  The sudden absence of a parent during this age may result in regression for the child, which means they could return to a former or less developed state.  They may display behaviors they did when they were at a younger age.

Be patient and consistent and engage often in play with your child to help them through this time.

The Bible says we are destroyed due to lack of knowledge.  I commend you for getting knowledge on how to best help your toddler through this difficult time in your lives.  Because you want to help your toddler now, you will save both of you some difficulties later on.

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About Jefferson Drexler

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