Are you worried about how lockdown is affecting your baby or toddler’s mental health? If so, you’re not alone.
Recently there was a viral video of a little girl walking along the street, stopping every few steps to ‘clean her hands’. It had the caption: ‘When your first year of life is 2020 was all about HAND SANITIZING’.
She’s adorable, as toddlers are when they copy what they see Mummy or Daddy do in their play.
The video taps into one of the biggest things parents worry about right now, which is how growing up in a pandemic will affect our babies and toddlers.
Growing up in this ‘new normal’
The world our babies and toddlers are growing up in one where adults wear masks and keep their distance. It’s a world based within their own homes, where they only have their parents for company: a world where they only see Grandma and Grandad on Zoom or through a window.
In many ways it is one of the invisible costs of the pandemic. Will growing up in this strange new ‘normal’ have a lasting effect on our baby or toddler’s development and mental health?
Mums and dads are feeling the stress too
Living through a pandemic has taken its toll on us all. Some days feel OK but others feel rubbish.
Parental guilt is not a new thing. Right now we are feeling it in spades, worrying about whether our children will pick up on our anxiety and if it will it damage them?
We always urge mums and dads to banish any guilt they feel. Right now – that’s even more important.
One of the best things we can do to help our children is to take care of ourselves and make sure we are OK. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. So when you do, take time to escape in whatever way you can. That might be taking a few deep breaths. Or it might be carving out time in your day to unwind in whatever way you can.
Emily Tredget, from Team Happity says:
It is important to remember that in keeping our babies healthy and well, we need to first remember to keep ourselves healthy and well. Often we forget about ourselves, but like on an airplane, we need to put our oxygen mask on first.
Your baby and toddler’s mental health
Little ones don’t have the vocabulary or the emotional maturity to explain their feelings. Often they show you their feelings through their behaviour.
You are enough!
One of the most important things to remember is that you are the centre of your baby or child’s world. Your love, time and attention is what they need. And it’s what will make them thrive.
Lockdown days have a peculiar sense of time. Spending it together can benefit your child.
You are enough. None of us expected to be parenting in a pandemic and we have to be kind to ourselves.
Top tips to help support your baby & toddler with their mental health:
- When you pass people in the street on your daily walk say ‘Hello’, smile and wave. Chances are they’ll greet you back. Even though we’re all keeping a distance you will be teaching your child to welcome the people they meet in their day to day lives and showing them how friendly they are.
- Welcome everyone who knocks on your door with a big smile and tell your child who they are and why they are at your door – whether it’s the postman delivering letters or the delivery man dropping off food. Even in a mask and at a safe distance they will more than likely enjoy getting such a warm welcome and chat to your little one.
- Your baby or toddler often shows their feelings in their play. Watch what they do and join in. For example, if your toddler pretends a toy cat or dog is sad and needs care, get down and play along with them – talking about how the toy is feeling and how you both can help them feel better.
- Verbalise their feelings. If your child is sad or withdrawn put their feelings into words. This shows that you understand and care. For example you might say: ‘I can see you feel cross right now because we can’t go out and play. Why don’t we choose a jigsaw or toy to play with together?’
- Talk about the people you see in books and on TV. Focusing on how friendly they are and talking about all the kind people we meet, who help us.
- Show your child photos of their extended family. Babies and toddlers are drawn to faces and can recognise them if you show them often. Say the names of your family as you point to the photos. Your baby and child might not get much out of a Zoom call or Facetime with Gran and Grandad but it’s another way of showing them the faces that will be an important part of their lives.
- Join in online baby & toddler classes. We KNOW they’re not the same as face to face classes but they are the next best thing in lockdown. And your baby or toddler will be super engaged and love them. They also break up the long and lonely lockdown days for you too. Find loads to choose from and book them on Happity.
And a must-read for all parents: Keep calm and carry on (with Covid 19)
Gentle Journeys support parents in the early months of parenting. Find out how to access their support.