Every parent knows the joys of their child learning to do something new for the first time. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves a few weeks or months down the road frustrated as that challenge resurfaces. Whether you are working towards sleeping through the night, managing separation stress, or learning to solve problems without biting and hitting, regression is a normal part of the learning process.
Though regression to old patterns can be frustrating for families, understanding why this happens will help us better empathize and work with our child through this tricky time. The first thing we always like to do is to help adults think about these challenges in terms of how that might challenge mirror the adult world. It is hard for adults or children to change habits. Perhaps you were working for months to cut dessert out of week nights only to find yourself having ice cream three nights during a stressful week. Maybe you and your partner have been working on communicating when you’re feeling overwhelmed but you find yourself shutting down again when you’re stressed.
Developing healthy habits and skills is difficult work for both adults and children. Our brains wire strong connections based on our behaviors and it can take weeks, months, even years of practice to wire new pathways when we want to make change. When you find yourself thinking that your child should know better or totally can handle a situation you know that is a time for encouragement and empathy. It is when we are having those tough moments that we most need the assurance of our loved ones to help us stick with our healthy choices and skills.