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Having a toddler means new ways to communicate, now that she has developed quite the vocabulary.


Mama, all that talking can make you tired, but also excited and relieved that you have a little person to communicate with.

And at the top of your toddler’s growing vocabulary list is the word “no,” at times even accompanied by a yell, a stomp, or a wicked shake of the head.

So what makes your joyful toddler the apple of your eye one minute, and your stark adversary the next? Your toddler’s joy and the delight are still there, just temporarily set aside for a more important job—mastering her universe. Up till now, your little one navigated through life almost exclusively at your guidance. You taught her what things were, where things were, and how to communicate in order to get what she needs.

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The difference now is that she has recognized that she has some control over her world and how she makes her way through it.

What does mastering her universe really mean for your tot? It means taking action to effect some change or result, which affords a sense of control. It means integrating prior knowledge with new explorations and beginning to link isolated behaviors together in meaningful sequences. So, a doll is no longer just for labeling "baby" and carrying around as some sort of transitional object. That doll may very well be held, rocked, fed, and put to bed by your toddler, who is learning to act out real-life and complex sequences.

Having said that, at this age, she is not entirely able to distinguish reality from fantasy, and her worldview is pretty much limited to what she experiences in the here-and-now. This egocentric stage where your toddler is on her own agenda and with only enough energy reserves to tackle these pursuits, combined with limited resources for reasoning, is what brings about your little "Mary Mary, quite contrary."

So, while it seems perfectly reasonable to suggest to your toddler, who is engrossed in smothering his toy car with playdoh to see if it will still roll down his homemade ramp, that it is time to wash his hands for dinner, he likely experiences that as a fatal disruption to his life's work with no possibility of return. Drastic, right?

It is the true nature of toddlerhood to experience much turmoil with the mere suggestion of a transition.

Luckily, there are some strategies you can try that allow you to see life through your toddler’s eyes and facilitate transitions, while minimizing battle wounds for both of you:

1. Understand

First and foremost, take a step back to make sense of your toddler’s experiences, considering both what brings her joy and under what circumstances you are seeing the most resistance. Specifically, seek to understand:

  • What your child is going through developmentally. It may seem as though toddlers are a bottomless pit of energy, but managing transitions, changes, and demands, while also exercising autonomy actually requires significant effort and can be exhausting for the little one who is hard at work mastering his universe.
  • What the function of the resistance behavior is. Is it to gain or prolong access to a preferred activity, or is your request unfamiliar and possibly anxiety-provoking
  • What the child is feeling in the moment and why. Even if the reaction seems excessive for the situation, the underlying emotional experience is valid.
  • How your child’s resistance affects you. Know that you are not alone. Lean on your other mama friends to exchange the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can be both insightful and replenishing.

2. Model

Never underestimate just how important you are in teaching your child how to cope with challenges, by how you do it yourself. Try modeling:

  • Narrate your own struggles with things not moving along in the way you hoped or planned. For example, “I feel so frustrated that we ran out of pasta sauce. I’m going to need to come up with a new plan for dinner. I think I can do that!”
  • Resist the urge to meet your child’s resistance with resistance. If we want to shape our children into being flexible problem solvers, we can model this when faced with the problem of a little defiant one. Take a deep breath and use validation and problem solving (see tips below) to proceed with both reason and compassion.
  • Use alternatives phrases. “I don’t think so,” “Maybe not,” or even simply “No, thank you,” can help minimize the sting of an outright “No.”

3. Anticipate

Chances are, you’ve have started to see clearly what makes your toddler tick, so anticipating some challenges with getting your toddler to shift gears can help you navigate those trying moments with greater ease. Pay particular attention to what tends to set off your tot the most, and take some preventative action by using one or more of these tips:

  • Offer choices so that she retains her sense of control. “Do you want to use a spoon or a fork to eat your peas?” and, “Should we wear the tiger jammies or the princess ones?”or, “Is mommy or daddy going to be toothbrush helper tonight?” all provide options for her to consider and choose.
  • Deliver your expectations in a fun, creative, or easy manner. For example, “I’ll race you to the bathroom!” or, “I wonder if you got any new teeth, we better count each one we brush to be sure!”
  • Offer something preferred to accompany her less preferred transition. Statements, like, “Monkey wants to hear the bedtime story tonight—quick, take him to find the best spot on the bed for him!” serve to provide her with perceived control over the process.

4. Validate

When your toddler starts to crumble, recognize the tragedy that he is experiencing in a genuine, interested, and compassionate way. There is always some rational sense underlying the extreme reaction. A little empathy can often be just what is needed to move your toddler from “No” to go. Use these important tips for validating:

  • Empathize with how your child feels. Phrases like, “You’re mad because you have to stop playing to get ready for bed,” and, “It’s sad to break a favorite toy,” or, “It’s hard to be away from blankie, and blankie will be so happy to feel clean again!” are infinitely better than ignoring their emotions.
  • Never validate the invalid. You don’t want to find yourself saying, “You’re right, mommy is bad,” but you can say, “I understand, you’re upset with mommy because I can’t stay and play trains with you.”

Remember that reasoning with them is not the same as validating them. Toddlers are notoriously deficient in their reasoning abilities, but moreover, a pull towards logic and rationality when someone is stuck in an emotion mindset can further polarize the experience. Joining your child by understanding his experience allows you to walk gently with him towards a balanced view that incorporates both logic and emotions.

5. Problem Solve

Lastly, carefully crafting a concoction of a few of these skills can often be just the right dose of flexibility to get your toddler moving and not resisting. Problem solving can happen when we:

  • Validate the feeling and the experience, model communication about it, present choices, and add in a creative twist to make it enticing. For example, “You really like that puzzle and we are just looking today. I can see you feel pretty sad about that. What can we do to feel better? Should we take a picture of you with the puzzle or have a puzzle play-day at home?”
  • Anticipate a tough transition, model getting through it with calm communication and empathy. Restating what you see and what your child may feel, like, “I know you love the toy store. Sometimes we go there and buy things for home, and sometimes we get to buy special surprises for other kids. Today, we are picking out a toy for your cousin. Do you want to help choose the wrapping paper or the bow? Your cousin will feel so special and so happy if you are the helper!” have a better chance of being heard and absorbed than simply reacting to your child in the midst of a situation.

Your toddler is undergoing quite the transformation and the likely truth is that you are both experiencing the growing pains from this phase. As your little one immerses himself in his new world in which he is becoming master, take pride in his achievements and in your own, because, Mama, you have created this secure universe for him.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

My kids miss their grandparents on a regular basis. They're obsessed with them in this completely beautiful, loving way. One set lives four hours south of us and the other set lives about three hours north. We all frequently talk about how we wished we lived closer so we could see each other more regularly because even though they're not super far (thank goodness), it still feels far enough.

Far enough to require planning visits in advance, packing our bags for those visits and sleeping over instead of opportunities for weekly family dinners or sneaking out for a midweek date night, free grandparent-babysitting included.

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But even though we don't see each other daily, or weekly even, we all make significant efforts to visit consistently. We always have plans together on the horizon. Birthdays are celebrated in-person, plays or recitals attended and often when our kindergartener has time off from school, we pack up and either go to New York or Vermont to spend our free time with them.

Except right now. Right now—even though our kiddos are not going to school—we can't just pack up and head north or south. Which has been confusing, and understandably emotional, for the kids.

Basically a lot of our conversations lately have gone something like this:

Child: "Can we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house, pleeeeeeease?"

Me: "I'm sorry, honey, we can't right now. Remember how we talked about the germs going around? We have to stay home to keep safe."

Child: "Well, when are the germs gonna be goneeeeeee?"

Me: "We aren't sure. We just have to try to be patient."

Child: "Why can't we just go to Nana and Poppas nowwww?"

And after I side-step the whining, I want to burst into tears. Because I don't know. I don't know what to tell them exactly. I don't know when we'll see their grandparents again.

I simply don't know when this will be over.

And while the kids are used to frequent FaceTimes with Nana and Poppa to stay in touch and they know they have to go through stretches of time without visits from Grandma and Grandpa, they're not used to stretches this long or only having FaceTime as an option for connection.

Even though this is our new (and temporary) normal, it doesn't feel normal. The uncertainty isn't normal. Long periods of isolation isn't normal. Only being around each other—and no one else—isn't normal.

Celebrations that were planned and family visits that had been marked down in our calendars have been canceled and crossed out. Baptisms, birthday parties, Easter gatherings—all gone.

This Easter, a time when we usually gather with at least one set of grandparents, will be celebrated by the five of us, in our home without any extended family members. We'll still hunt for eggs and eat too much Easter candy, of course—but there will be a piece of our puzzle missing in the shape of a chocolate bunny from Poppa and a ricotta pie from Grandma.

We don't know when we'll be together in person again and it's breaking our hearts.

Because they miss Grandma rubbing their back and earlobes (this is a true request) while she tells them bedtime stories.

They miss going on adventures to the farm with Grandpa.

They miss cuddling up with Nana on the couch for movie time.

They miss going on walks with Poppa to visit the ducks.

They miss smelling Grandma's meatballs and sauce cooking in the kitchen.

They miss building blocks with Grandpa in the living room.

They miss painting rocks with Nana at the kitchen table.

They miss Poppa sneaking them M&M's.

I can't help but pause and think to myself how lucky they are they get to miss these people—as strange as that sounds. I'm so proud of the relationship they have with their grandparents, how close they all are, and I know this strange period of time could never take that away from them.

The other day, my father-in-law read about five books to my 2-year-old after she grabbed my phone and demanded, "Gandma, Gandpa! Read book!" to me while dragging me over to her little fox chair in the corner. She plopped herself down—snacks included—and I adjusted the phone so she could see her Grandpa's face as he started reading. She was proud as a pickle. Happy as a clam.

She knew this was an option, because last week Grandma did it, and the kids loved it.

So for now, we'll have virtual storytime instead of in-person bedtime stories.

We'll have videos of Nana and Poppa reading and checking in with the kids instead of catching up under a cozy blanket on the couch.

We'll talk on FaceTime over dinner at two different tables, chatting about our day instead of sharing a meal together at one.

We'll have a Zoom Easter party virtually connecting under different roofs, instead of celebrating under the same one.

We'll send colorful pictures or handwritten notes in the mail instead of delivering them with our own two hands.

We'll figure it out. This is hard. But we can do hard things.

We can still laugh.

We can still see each other's faces, hear each other's voices.

And we can still stay in touch.

The connection may be virtual right now, but it's not virtually impossible. Thank you, grandparents, for still supporting our families—even from a distance.

Love + Village

Pregnancy brings so many questions, but giving birth during a pandemic can be plain overwhelming. It likely seems as if your questions are never-ending, and the more answers you get, the more questions come up.

There is likely so much on your mind right now:

Will I need to give birth without my partner?

Will I have limited pain relief options?

Am I going to be separated from my baby?

It's so much to think about, and it can feel scary.

As you think about your birth, one of your biggest fears is likely a sense of having a lack of control throughout this process. Mama, you are not alone. Thousands of couples are in the same boat, and I want to share some ways to cope with this shift.

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Ultimately, I want you to know that it is still possible to have a good birth, even if it is different than what you had originally hoped for.

As a doula, here are tips for giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Grieve for the experience you didn't get.

Hold space for yourself. Hold space for the expectations that you had for yourself and your birth experience. It's okay to be sad, or mad, or scared, or even a little resentful that this pandemic has disrupted your perfectly planned birth goals. One of the best things to remind yourself is that while you can't control what happens, you can control how you react to them.

If your difficult feelings are impacting you significantly, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health therapist for help via virtual services.

2. Prepare for a new kind of birth.

More important than grieving the birth you won't have is finding the energy to adapt. Now more than ever is the time to get creative with how you will adjust your expectations to help you have a controlled birth experience despite the current outbreak.

A great way to start is by taking a birth class—there are plenty of online classes like Motherly's Becoming Mama™ Online Birth Class. Books can help, too, like The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, which releases on April 14th, 2020.

The Birth Lounge Membership for expecting parents is another great service to check out. Surrounding yourself with positive, evidence-based information will help you feel more confident during this uncertain time.

Look for resources that comfort and inform you.

3. Advocate for yourself.

You may find that your appointments with your doctor or midwife are canceled or rescheduled. This doesn't mean you no longer have access to your medical provider—it just means they don't think the prenatal appointment was worth the risk of exposure for you.

However, you can request that a nurse, midwife or obstetrician give you a call to answer the questions you were planning to discuss at your appointment. You aren't alone, and help is still available to you.

4. Brace for the aesthetics.

When you arrive at the hospital to have your baby, you may see a different set-up than you are used to. There may be tents set up outside, security guards and nurses at the doors checking everyone's temperature, and medical staff in what appears to be hazmat gear! What a shock this will be. So spend some time coming to terms with it, and remind yourself that even though it looks scary, its intention is to keep everyone safe.

Say to yourself, "I am safe. My baby is safe."

5. Labor at home as long as possible (with your provider's approval).

This pandemic is changing the way that people birth in so many ways. We've already seen nationwide restrictions to hospital policies, as well as restrictions around the number of support people allowed at the birth. Providers are asking patients to call before coming to the hospital and are providing screenings to all partners to assess for coronavirus infection.

If you are low-risk, your provider may encourage you to labor at home for a while.

Laboring at home can help to reduce your risk of exposure and it will also allow you to labor in your own space with your own rules and with your own people without the energetic weight of COVID-19 hanging over your head. Many providers are recommending such already.

Remember, you need to check in with your provider when labor starts. There are some essential questions they need to ask to make sure it is safe for you to labor at home.

6. Know your options.

Be mindful of the information you take in so you can make educated and informed decisions when it comes to your birth. This includes unfollowing or unfriended certain people on social media if you find that their content is unhelpful or stressful. Try to focus on reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or the March of Dimes.

One of the tough aspects of this pandemic is that expert recommendations are changing day to day—you will notice that even these organizations have opposing recommendations.

For example, the CDC recommends separating new moms and babies if coronavirus is suspected, while the WHO suggests leaving the two together for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. Consider what options feel best for you, and speak with your provider about your preferences, understanding that hospital policies may vary.

Something else to think about is pain medication. For example, some hospitals have suspended the use of nitrous oxide as it is an aerosol comfort measure, and there is a concern about the transmission of coronavirus.

7. Find the control.

When you notice yourself feeling anxious or worried about your birth, try finding the control in the situation.

Does your control lie in laboring at home for as long as possible?

Is your control in the fact that you've prepared for months for this moment?

Maybe you've realized that not that much will actually change for your birth plans, and that's what makes you feel in control.

Remember that you still get to have a say in the care you receive. You get to decide where you birth, and you get to decide what happens to your body during this time.

If you haven't heard the recent news, the Governor of New York put out orders declaring that one support person should be allowed for every laboring person—this extends to postpartum and recovery.

8. Remember that you are not alone.

There is power in numbers. There are so many parents who are on this journey of entering parenthood during a pandemic. While this is a difficult time, it's comforting to know that you're not the only one feeling this way.

Social distancing doesn't have to mean isolation. Take advantage of the technological advances we have in 2020 to harness the power of human connection. Your online village awaits you!

This is a scary time to be pregnant, but you are strong. You are not alone.

Thousands of parents across the country are navigating this story alongside you. While this is very different from anything you could have imagined, it doesn't have to be a bad experience. You still have so much control. The choice is yours. Take the time this quarantine has presented you with and use it to prepare for this new birth experience. You can do this.

Life

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West have four young children and after self-isolating with her kids during the coronavirus pandemic Kardashian says that's probably as many as they'll ever have.

Speaking on The View this week, Kardashian explained: "Being at home with four kids...if I ever thought for a minute that I wanted another one—that is out the door. It's really tough. Really tough."

She continued: "My newfound respect for teachers—it's like, they deserve so much. It's been tough juggling it all and you really have to put yourself on the back burner and just focus on the kids."

Kim Kardashian West Shares Social Distancing Experience | The View www.youtube.com

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"I've been doing laundry and cooking," Kardashian West explained, which suggests that her household staff is not working during the family's self-isolation.

"Today was the first day that I actually brushed my hair and put on some makeup," she explained, adding that her sister Kylie Jenner came over to do her makeup for the TV appearance, and aside from their mom Kris Jenner coming over for a 6-foot-apart chat, that's the only extended family company she's had in a while.

Her kids, 6-year-old North, 4-year-old Saint, 2-year-old Chicago and baby Psalm have not been able to see their cousins, which is hard because they're all so close. Kardashian West told The View's co-hosts that while she actually enjoys the break from her family's usually jam-packed travel schedule, she's running out of activities around the house, and that her family has watched "every single movie that you can imagine" already.

There's nothing wrong with a little extra screen time during this challenging time Kim, but if you need more activities we've got plenty of ideas!

News
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