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If You Feel Like Your Kids Are Regressing, You’re Probably Right – and It’s Okay

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In times of stress, we never know what to expect as far as reactions from different demographics and age groups. People react differently to abrupt changes to circumstances, and that goes double for kids, who thrive on routine.

Which is all to say that if your little ones have been acting strangely, or regressing in some ways to their younger selves, in these uncertain and locked-up times, there’s no real reason to worry.

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Parents everywhere are noticing their bigger kids expressing defiance, emotional outbursts that are more common in younger kids, clinginess, and desiring more physical affection and reassurance. It’s important to remember that even though your kids are bigger, that doesn’t mean they have all the tools to process what’s happening in the world.

Kids are engaging with toys, too, that you might have thought they’d outgrown – books, puzzles, games, and even toddler favorites like a sandbox in the backyard. They remind them of when things were simple and normal, and they knew there was nothing that being home with mom and dad couldn’t fix.

Children regress when they want attention and stability to make a reappearance in their lives. They’re retreating back to a place where they feel safe and loved when things were familiar and easy. Old toys, old books, old snuggle spots – all of those are fair game.

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And, according to Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a doctor and child development expert, it’s healthy.

“For the same reason that a lot of adults are re-watching shows or re-reading books that have brought them joy in the past, kids often – in times of uncertainty – seek out familiar objects or experiences with known effects. Trying a new game or activity is not as certain to soothe.”

Other parents are seeing similar trends, with teenagers dragging out their LEGO and asking for new ones, young teens diving back into old Minecraft buildings, and dolls and Barbies emerging from the backs of closets. They’re watching animated movies again, and going to their parents’ rooms for comfort in the middle of the night.

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Being stuck at home is doing wonders for sibling relationships, too, now that there are few (if any) opportunities to play with friends outside the family. Moms are reporting brothers and sisters snacking together in front of movies, watching YouTube together for hours, and generally creating their own little support systems.

There are beautiful moments and silver linings, then, to all of this madness. And even though watching your kids struggle can hurt your heart, knowing that there are places in your home and heart and lap that make them feel as safe as babies again feels pretty darn good.

Keep going, y’all. We can do this, and we’re all gonna be okay.