Why is my child regressing during the pandemic?

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by iStock

It seems every parent you talk to lately is baffled by something their child is doing differently than they used to.

A baby that used to sleep through the night but is now up every hour, a toddler who was just potty trained and now refuses to use the toilet, a rebelling grade-schooler who tells you they absolutely can’t read the book they used to love.

It is no secret that stressful events which result in drastic change, such as a global pandemic, cause regression in children.

When you think about it, it makes sense. There are many things competing for parents’ attention these days and your child acting out (in any way) ensures your attention will be 100 per cent on them (even if it is negative attention).

“It is more likely a struggle to communicate their feelings in an appropriate way than an actual developmental regression,” said Barb Gross, family resource services manager at Airdrie Community Links.

“They may need to have more control over their environment such as routines, meal choices and preparation, activity choices, etc. The more they can control what is safe and appropriate, the easier it will be to accept the realities of what is happening and what they cannot do.”

Gross said one way to help cope with these regressions or setbacks is to find ways for them to communicate – with anyone. Whether it be you, their friends or someone else they trust.

“The older the child, the more important it will be to find new ways to communicate with friends, luckily technology has given us many ways to do this,” she said.

“Make sure you are comfortable with forms of communication and ensure the children understand Internet and social media safety.”

She said a little reassurance can also go a long way. Even as adults we know that when things seem uncertain or out of our control, all we need is someone to say “it’s going to be alright.”

“If a child (especially a young child) seems to be reverting to sucking their thumb for example, they may need more reassurance that they are safe and this won’t last forever,” said Gross.

“Age appropriate and accurate information about what is happening, and a lot of positive attention is important.”

She also suggested establishing a routine for the family to follow, even if it is one they are not used to. Knowing what is going to come next can help them feel more secure and safe.

“Establishing good routines is very important for the whole family,” she added.

“This includes time apart and time together.”

For more information or to access family services provided by Community Links, click here.