Parenting consultant's tips on coping with your toddler in lockdown

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, with her child. 

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, with her child. - Credit: Roma Malone

"Toddlers thrive on rhythm and routines and they need control and connection with others to feel calm and emotionally stable."

Lockdown has taken many of those things away from them, says Roma Malone, a trained parenting consultant from Downham Market.

The mum-of-two, who specialises in ToddlerCalm classes, said: "It's been a really difficult year for most of us, however, the one age group I believe has probably struggled the most is those between one and five.

Roma Malone, a qualified parenting consultant from Downham Market, with her children.

Roma Malone, a qualified parenting consultant from Downham Market, with her children. - Credit: Roma Malone

"They have even less control over what they can do, their daily and weekly routines are all messed up or non-existent, not to mention all the anxiety and stress they absorb through their parents."

But she has given her tips to help parents with young children who may be struggling during this time.


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Contain their feelings

"It’s important we make time and space to contain their emotions, both their feelings about lockdown, Covid and any changes they’ve had to make, and their general day to day emotions about the seemingly small stuff.

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"Often the things which seem insignificant to us are huge for them and sometimes they're an outlet for bigger anxieties which they aren't able to express yet.

"Try describing their emotions, for example 'I can see you’re sad right now, is it because I said no?' or 'You’re feeling disappointed that you can’t see your friends?'

"Giving toddlers the language tools and the emotional support to express big feelings can build up their emotional intelligence and coping skills for the future."

Give them control in other areas

"Toddlers have very little control over their lives, and right now, even less so.

"Giving them back control where we are able can really help them feel calmer and happier.

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests trying to give toddlers control over things like what to wear to help them feel...

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests trying to give toddlers control over things like what to wear to help them feel calmer and happier. - Credit: Roma Malone

"Try letting them choose what they want to wear by giving a couple of outfit options, or let them choose where you go on your daily walk, let them pick what they eat or which cup they use."

Try and keep a daily or weekly rhythm

"Toddlers need predictability in their lives just as much as they need novelty, so it can help to keep some form of structure to your days or weeks.

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests trying to keep a daily or weekly rhythm.

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests trying to keep a daily or weekly rhythm. - Credit: Roma Malone

"For example, going for a walk every day around the same time, like after lunch, or having Monday as the day you go to the park and Tuesday as movie day. Singing the same song when getting dressed or doing a bedtime ritual such as bath, brush teeth, read book, have cuddles, sleep time - this can help them know what is happening next and what to expect.

"It doesn’t have to be a strict routine as flexibility is just as key in helping children feel calmer and happier."

Use play to get them listening

"Toddlers not listening can be a major trigger for parents and is very frustrating.

"Using playfulness to get their attention can be a great way to connect with them so they can hear what you're saying."

Don’t stress about screens

One of Roma Malone's tips is to not to stress about screen time.

One of Roma Malone's tips is to not to stress about screen time. - Credit: Roma Malone

"You may find you’re resulting to using screens a lot more than you anticipated during lockdown.

"Using screens can be beneficial to toddlers, many TV programmes aimed at children are hugely educational and even if they aren't I can guarantee they are still learning things. You can also download toddler friendly games if you have a tablet or phone.

"And if you really don’t like the idea of screens, you can put music on and children's podcasts and stories for them to listen to instead."

Get outside

"Trying to get outside every day, even just for a few minutes, is hugely beneficial for toddlers, and for us. Whether it’s a long walk, a bike ride, a scoot round the block or just toddling about in the garden and playing mud kitchens. 

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests getting outside even for a few minutes will be beneficial to toddlers.

Roma Malone, from Downham Market, suggests getting outside even for a few minutes will be beneficial to toddlers. - Credit: Roma Malone

"Fresh air and sunlight will really help your little one regulate their bodies and it can help them sleep better too."

Give opportunities to fulfil play schemas

"If you find your toddler is getting on your nerves by emptying out bags or throwing food, making mess or climbing the furniture, it may well be that they are trying to practice a certain type of play - these are called play schemas.

One of Roma Malone's tips is to give toddlers the opportunities to fulfil play schemas.

One of Roma Malone's tips is to give toddlers the opportunities to fulfil play schemas. - Credit: Roma Malone

"Making sure we provide safe opportunities for them to practice these will deter them from practising them on things we don’t want them to.

"For example, if they're emptying out your bag or the kitchen cupboard every 10 minutes, give them a box of things they can empty and refill, or if they are climbing everything, set up an indoor obstacle course using the sofa cushions and household objects."

Look after yourself

"It's really important you, as a parent, put yourself first sometimes and make time for yourself.

"Even something as small as doing some deep breathing or mindfulness exercises, or if you have a bit more time going for a bath, run or snuggling up with your favourite movie.

One of the tips is to look after yourself as a parent and take some time to relax.

One of the tips is to look after yourself as a parent and take some time to relax. - Credit: Roma Malone

"We cannot parent the way we want to if we are stressed out and emotionally exhausted. Once you are feeling calmer, you will be able to parent in a much calmer and gentler way, and thus your toddler will hopefully cope a little bit better too."

For more support email Mrs Malone on romamalone@calmfamily.org 

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