Pandemic Trauma in our Babies and Toddlers

I’ve been having a lot of other toddler moms mention to me that their babies are extra whiny, not sleeping well or sleeping a lot more, emotional, extra clingy, short tempered, really silly or almost chaotic and it’s making parents more overwhelmed than they already are.  

I’ve been quick to point out to every single momma that our lives are hard right now. I’m stressed. I have good days and bad. Today has not been a great day. I’m emotional, tired, fed up with having to work from home. I’m especially feeling a lot of guilt for making my talkative, active toddler be quiet and subdued so I can talk to another child on my iPad and encourage them to talk.  How jacked up is that?! Honestly, it makes me cry just typing it. It feels counter-productive to me, it hurts her feelings and it hurts me that I have been put in this situation to begin with. Now when my husband or I sit in a certain chair in our house, her face falls and she says “you gots a meetin now? I be quiet?” My heart breaks a little bit at our new normal. I’ve had lots of suggestions like hire a babysitter, cut on the tv, do it during nap, just make her be quiet. Seriously? Logistically none of those suggestions could work.

What we are experiencing right now is not normal and we can’t respond normally.  I keep telling all these parents who are struggling, “give yourself some grace. Life is hard right now. Nothing is normal and we are ALL struggling. Our babies included. And it could be that they are struggling even more than we as adults are.” I talk about trauma responses in adults and in children and how it may be random and it may be completely unexpected. It could be an explosive reaction that lasts a few minutes or could last all day or multiple days. It could be regression of skills like taking step backwards potty training, talking, eating, sleeping, and playing. 

My girl has been especially frustrated when playing with puzzles. She normally loves them but the past few weeks just can’t handle them. Sometimes with stress, it builds and builds to pure emotion. Today, after ignoring how I was feeling, trying to work and smile through the craziness while keeping her busy and somewhat quiet, attempting to apply for unemployment, manage a darling 2.5 year old and then keep up with everything else, the dog did something bad and the girl yelled “Dee! You know better!! You know better Dee!”, and at the exact same time the fridge door broke and I completely lost it. Sat in the floor in front of the open fridge and cried. She’s heard me say that phrase way too many times in the past few weeks to her, to the dogs and even to myself.  The guilt has been real today. It’s been a slow building of stress and emotion that is just simply too much. 

 And here I am frustrated with her.  Here I am wondering why she’s laying in the floor crying because she can’t get her pants on right.  I question why she wakes up crying for her grandparents. Or when we tell her it’s time for church and with tears in her eyes she whispers “on iPad cause people sick?”  Or when she’s fighting sleep extra hard, wanting to hold my hand constantly, or when she’s lays against the car and cries that she misses the park. It could be that it’s been a slow build or it could be just an explosion of upset because life just isn’t normal. 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on trauma responses in adults and children due to the pandemic and wanted to share this great resource.  All these emotional and physical responses our little people are showing us and experiencing are signs that our littlest people are struggling and feeling out of sorts. We need to deal with their feelings appropriately so that they can stay healthy and as emotionally stable as possible. If we, as adults, are stressed, our babies, without a doubt, are stressed. Please know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out for help. It’s okay to need someone to talk to. It’s okay to have bad moments and bad days. Let’s help ourselves and our little ones cope with these changes. Let’s help them learn ways to express emotion and process stress and change in healthy ways. Let’s grow from this. 

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