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Supporting Your Toddler’s Stage of Development

My older son is full of energy and curiosity, as he’s in the exploration stage of development (18 months to 3 years old). I sometimes struggle with my expectations of his behaviour and being mindful what’s appropriate for the stage of development he’s currently in. Here’s a quick summary of this stage:

Your toddler’s tasks in this stage – development of motor skills (running, using a fork), environmental discovery, and  differentiation (maintaining a sense of self as an independent individual, while in relationship with others; family and friends either support or hinder this process)
What your kid needs from you –  to provide both a safe area for discovery and appropriate oversight, so they can freely explore; reliable availability (make them feel that they can leave you and return back to you)
Try not to – smother and be too all over them, possibly intervene too quickly and too often (something I tend to do); or failure to notice and take action, inattention, neglect

When we don’t do our job, kids develop the adaptation of either pursuing or isolating. If kids experience their parents as not there when they need them, they are afraid to take risks, and become someone who pursues others for reassurance and feels under-supported. On the other hand, when oversight is excessive, kids pull away from you in order to feel free, and become someone who distances themselves to avoid feeling controlled by others. Are you one and your partner is the other? But, when a child experiences a balanced, successful exploration stage, the potential is intact curiosity, and a foundation in their development of differentiation (again, so important, and when your kid has a strong sense of self, it’s not easily shattered by others).

* Reflect on how you respond when you are dealing with your child beginning to explore the world. I have an adventuresome little guy, who touches and grabs everything.  He runs around and has trouble sitting still, especially in a new place. I feel anxious and the need to intervene and sometimes have become angry with him. What I need to be mindful of is that his behaviour is appropriate, and I can teach him to stay curious while staying within safe boundaries. I can work on staying calm and grounded as he discovers and enjoys himself. What do you want to be mindful of?

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