3 Tips to Help your Toddler Cope with New Situations
I’m a new parent, but I have grown up understanding and applying the colors almost my entire life. And even I get thrown for a loop from time to time. This past summer my family went to an indoor water park with our 2 year old son and 6 month old baby girl. As parents, we were so excited to show our son all of the fun ways to play with water and to watch him enjoy this new experience. The park had a zero depth baby pool, a water playground with a bucket that dumped every few minutes, a lazy river, and more! And a big bonus for us living in the Northwest; the water was nice and warm.
Unfortunately our expectations of a magical day were completely blown as we watched our son freak out for the first 30 minutes, he was too scared of the water to enjoy the park. This was both surprising and frustrating to us. He enjoys baths and has even gone kayaking on a small lake near our home, why was this so different to him? It was also frustrating because it limited the level of fun we could have as parents. (Can you guess my first color? ORANGE!!! Mama, needs her fun!) After this eventful trip we noticed a pattern emerging where anytime we introduced him to a new situation or environment his reaction was often the same; hesitation, reluctance or just plain scared. The experience with my little one might be similar to yours as a parent or you might be living the complete opposite. Your little one might approach new situations like a skydiver at the door of a plane, arms wide open ready to jump! Our littlest family members often fall into one of two categories: the scaredy cat or the daredevil.
There are color types which naturally lean towards being a bit of a scaredy cat or favor the life of a daredevil, even at this young age. Little Greens are usually ready to explore and experiment, “What will happen if I do this?” However, as they get older they may learn to hesitate to avoid looking stupid or appearing incompetent in new situations, but as little ones they are excited to collect information using all of their senses giving them the appearance of a tiny daredevil. Little Oranges are typically all about adventure, new experiences, and having fun; not thinking or feeling through any consequences of their actions. They can be so caught up in the moment that they don’t see the warning signs of danger in their path and therefore definitively fall in the tiny and mighty daredevil category. While little Blues are typically more cautious than the other color types and will look to trusted adults to make sure a new situation is safe. They also tend to be afraid of separating from their parents and hesitate to try new things because of that. As the most emotional color type they tend to cry when they are overwhelmed and are often given the stereotypical label of a being a scaredy cat. And finally, little Golds have a hard time with unexplained changes or overwhelming, chaotic situations. Going into a new environment without knowing what to expect of the space, how to act in the space, or what you expect them to do in the new environment can be very stressful for a them. Golds, more than the other colors, have the unique ability to appear like a bit of a scaredy cat when the situation is new, but can quickly shift into daredevil mode when they understand what is expected of them.
With that being said, here are a few tips to help your child cope with new situations.
- Talk to them beforehand about what to expect. Let’s use the example of going to the doctor’s office which can be a huge challenge for toddlers and young children. There are several ways to talk to your child beforehand to prepare them for the new experience. Buying or borrowing a book from the library about doctor visits (great for Greens), showing them the online profile pic of their doctor and the office (good for Golds especially), or playing pretend doctor office (a good choice for Oranges and Blues). Helping them understand what to expect, telling them they are safe, and letting them know you will be with them the entire time are all good ways to ease into the new situation. Also, taking time to explain their job is during the visit: sitting quietly in the waiting room, listening and following directions, asking questions politely, and so on is very important when helping your scaredy cat feel prepared. For your daredevil make sure they understand the rules and boundaries going into the doctor’s office experience. For example, giving them the information that we don’t stand on top of the patient bed and pull out all of the white paper and pretend to be a ghost.
- Listen to what is making them afraid or what they are excited about. For example, if your child is an introvert new situations will be especially difficult and force them out of their comfort zone. Likewise, if they are a Gold or a Green not knowing what to expect or a lack of information could make your little one stressed. However, little Oranges might be so overly excited about a new situation or experience that they need you to talk them through how to best control their little body.
- Make new situations fun. To make new experiences easier in the future you can also build a reward into it. After a successful doctor’s office visit go out for ice cream or have a fun afternoon at the park. Maybe your little one can choose a toy from the toy bin at home, get a sticker, or an extra book at bedtime. It doesn’t have to be something flashy or expensive, the point is to make it meaningful so they can associate new experiences with positive outcomes!
Overall, it’s important as a parent to take the time to understand where our little ones are coming from. They are not out to ruin our day, stress us out, or steal our fun they are just trying to cope with things the best way they know how. As parents, we are here to help them put new tools into their toolbox of coping. New situations and change are a normal part of life; if we can help them develop coping mechanisms that fit their colors needs now, they will be better prepared for life on their own as an adult. It really is an important responsibility and a huge blessing to be able to teach our children about who they are.
Written By: Caitlyn Gardner