Anxious Toddlers & Low-Key is Birthdays

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My daughter will be turning 2 on the 25th. I’m mystified that my baby is growing so quickly. She woke up last week and just started opening doors and saying full blown sentences. With her big day approaching, we had to make a decision on a whether or not to have a party.

We had a party for her 1st birthday. We set up Peppa Pig balloons and decorations at a local community center, and a good amount of people and kids showed up to celebrate our little girl. I quickly noticed how uncomfortable she was. She would only let 2 or 3 people interact with her, and she didn’t smile much. She just seemed very nervous.

I knew she wasn’t a big fan of people, but it wasn’t until the party that I considered that she could have anxiety. My son has shown a fair amount of signs anxiety, but I never thought both my kids would have to deal with what I go through.

My anxiety has been a lifetime battle. Anytime I feel a panic attack or bad episode coming on, I start my breathing and make sure I’m out of the kids eyesight. I don’t want them to learn to copy me. I’ve talked to their doctors about anxiety, and they said that there are some signs to look for.

What Toddler Anxiety Looks Like

  • Rigidity. Anxious toddlers plead that their parents do things in a particular way. Some children genuinely enjoy a routine, but anxious toddlers can panic if things are not done a certain way.
  • Fear of New Situations. Many toddlers feel uncomfortable in new situations, and it can take them some time to adjust. However, anxious toddlers, will cling to you and refuse any interaction. They might hide or continually ask to leave.
  • Intense Tantrums. Tantrums are common for toddlers. However, tantrums that take 45 minutes or more and happen a lot aren’t as common. If something like hunger or being tired can cause an everlasting tantrum, anxiety could behind it.
  • Sleep Trouble. Anxiety can cause restlessness. A toddler might wake up a lot in the night or constantly toss and turn. Issues with staying asleep can be common.
  • Regression. Anxious toddlers are prone to regressing in learned behaviors. If your child is potty-trained, they might have frequent accidents or wet the bed. 
  • Repetitive Behaviors. Coping mechanisms or repeat patterns like lip chewing, nail biting, and rubbing fabrics can all be used as a calming behavior that toddlers might do when feeling anxious.
  • Sensitivity to Sound. Anxious toddlers might cover their ears if a sound is too loud. They can also be extremely uncomfortable in crowds or at parties with a lot of different types of noise.

My son has issues with everything listed, but my daughter mainly has problems sleeping soundly and with crowds, even crowds of family and people she’s familiar with. After watching her be unhappy at her last birthday, we decided to make birthday traditions that wouldn’t result in chaos and tears.

My husband will take the day off, and we will take her shopping for a new dress. We can take her to visit family, but we will see them individually rather than one big gathering. There will be a lot of driving, but it will make her enjoy her day so much more if we can do low-key, mini visits with her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

I get a lot of eye rolls when I talk about my anxiety and even more if I mention the possibility of my kids being anxious. I hear “calm down” more times than not. When parents look for answers, people become judgmental. I’m not trying to label my kids or find something wrong with them. I’m looking for ways to be a better mom and to make sure they have what they need to learn to and grow to the best of their ability.

I don’t think a diagnosis will magically fix any issues we have. I just want the best tools to make my kids happy and healthy. I just want to do right by my kids.

Figuring out what makes them happy has been a lot of trial and error. I know that if my son is restless, he will rub the corner of his pillow or pet his dog’s ear and head. My daughter will squeeze my finger if too many people are in her space. I’m learning just as they are. We are a team. If I can find the tools that make me a better parent in those moments where I feel helpless, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Patience is Key

I have a ton of posts and articles saved about anxious toddlers and ways to help them, but the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that patience is key. Also, not all coping strategies work the same. I could list what works for my kids, but no two steps work for them the same. My kids are different, and I’m sure all kids are different in terms of what’s best to help them handle their anxiety or even just everyday stresses of life. I also think talking about it is really important, and talking to doctors has helped us a lot.

People Judge What They Don’t Understand

Everyone experiences things differently. Everyone reacts to thing differently. The biggest issue I have is when someone snaps at me and says “that’s just a toddler. Tantrums are normal. Waking up a lot is normal. Being a picky eater is normal.” Just stop! I’m tired of hearing that my kids are just being normal toddlers. Hearing “normal” thrown around as a type of defense bothers me. The opposite of normal is abnormal and that has negative connotations, so why do others assume as parents, we are looking for the negative. I’m not looking for a list of things that are wrong with my children. I know I have healthy and amazing toddlers, and whether they have anxiety or not that doesn’t change.

It can get dicey, because everyone will have an opinion or something to say. It’s important to remember that those people aren’t present in your home 24/7, and no one knows your kids better than you. That is what I hold on to when someone is backing up their explanations and opinions on my parenting with their PHD in being judgmental.

I haven’t been very open about anxiety when it comes to my kids. I’ve only skimmed the surface about my own as it is. I have done a few posts about my son’s potty training struggles but not how they correlate with anxiety. I think that as a community, parents should be talking about these types of things and without judgement, and that’s why I thought this was important to say.

My kids might have anxiety. We will continue to watch them grow and learn. I will parent them and love them in the best ways possible. I will do everything in my power to make them comfortable, healthy, and happy.

Feel free to share your experiences with anxiety. This is a judge free zone. Negativity won’t be tolerated.


12 thoughts on “Anxious Toddlers & Low-Key is Birthdays”

  1. I am a post-partum anxiety survivor! The “calm down” remarks were my least favorite! I can totally relate. Best wishes to you and the kiddos 🙂

  2. That is a huge problem when we judge anxiety or mental health issues. It makes it hard for people to be open and seek help when they are afraid of being judged. Thank you for sharing your experience and that of your children.

  3. Glad to see someone talking so honestly about parenting an anxious child! My 4 year old has always has people anxiety and often acts out cuz of her emotions! School is helping big time but it was a huge struggle at first! I can’t say it gets easier… yet

    1. I’m nervous about my son starting school this coming fall, because he has a really hard time with separation anxiety on top of everything else. But I will keep doing my best and being open about our experiences. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

  4. Thank you for publishing this.
    I grew up with anxiety issues, now seeing it in my oldest daughter and getting to know more about my birth parents… apparently we all come by it naturally. However, I am used to living with people who are not familiar with natural prone anxiety, hypertension and mood disorders. It truly was a nightmare at times.
    Funny though, it often feels like the other side of the fence is the ‘abnormal’ one, not our own. So, when you mentioned, “I know I have healthy and amazing toddlers, and whether they have anxiety or not that doesn’t change” my first thought was YES! This women gets it.

    Thank you again for sharing your story and your voice about littles with anxiety. <3

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