Dear Mommy & Daddy, from your Anxious Toddler

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

It’s me, your anxious toddler. I know I don’t normally have the words to explain my behavior and at times I probably really frustrated you. I am sorry. I frustrate myself too.

Your anxious toddler has written you a letter. They know their behavior can be confusing and they want to explain themselves.I am not trying to be difficult and I am not a bad kid, but sometimes things just get overwhelming.

 

Like in the mornings when you ask me if I want waffles or pancakes. Waffles sound good, but when I see them I know I definitely made the wrong choice and I cry and say I wanted pancakes. Decisions are hard for me and I am afraid I might make the wrong choice – and I often do. Sometimes I might go back and forth with what I want and confuse us both.

 

Food is scary. You sometimes put things on my plate that look and smell weird. I get upset when I think the food is nice and smooth and then my tongue finds lumps. Sometimes this makes me want to throw up. I might spit my food out or gag. I am not trying to waste food. Sometimes food has a strong taste and I get overwhelmed. To be safe, I try to stick with foods that I have already seen and I already know how they taste in my mouth. You call me “picky” – I don’t know what that means, but if it means not gagging or tasting yucky food – then yes, I am!

 

I like to know where you are. I follow you everywhere. When you leave the room I get scared because I don’t feel safe. I know when you are with me, you’ll keep me safe. Sometimes I don’t play because I want to make sure I know where you are going. I hate it when you go to the bathroom and don’t let me in. Only my little fingers can get under the door. I wish I could squish my whole self under! I stay very close now so you don’t have time to disappear.

 

The toilet is not my friend. I don’t know why you want me to sit on that scary thing with a huge hole. What if I fall. What if it swallows me. What if bugs come out of the toilet. What if water splashes on me. What if I have to wipe and can’t get clean. I am okay with peeing really fast, but I don’t like to sit there and poop.

 

Sometimes it hurts my bottom to poop, so I just hold it in. Sometimes I hold it in for so long, small little poop balls fall out of my pants. I know you think that is gross – but I can’t help it. Sometimes I hold my pee and poop and it starts to hurt. I bounce around and hold my bottom and you tell me to go – but I tell you I don’t have to go. There is no way I am sitting on that scary potty.

 

Night time is the scariest time of day. Everything gets dark and you put me in a room all by myself. I worry there might be bugs in my room. Scary things are in the corners, but you tell me they are “shadows” – whatever that means. You tell me you will keep me safe, but then you leave. Am I safe if you are not with me? Are there scary things that you need to protect me from?

 

I don’t like shutting my eyes – what if something pops out or tries to get me. Sometimes you will lie down with me, but I can’t relax because I know if I close my eyes you will leave! I listen and feel for the bed to move so I can catch you before you leave. Sometimes I see you trying to sneak out, but I cry and get you back in bed!

 

I know dressing me is a hassle. Trust me – it is a hassle for me too. Whose idea was it that we should all wear clothes? I love to just run around naked. You tell me I have to at least wear underwear. Whatever! Socks are the worst. Why should I wear these things that make my feet hot and have big bumps on my toes. I can feel these bumps in my shoes.

 

Shoes! Uggh – don’t get me started on that crazy invention! I hate shoes. Sometimes they feel too loose, sometimes they are too tight. I want my feet to breathe – so flip flops or crocs are good. I wish I could wear those all the time.

 

The things my mom calls “tags” are another huge problem. Who thought it would be a good idea to have an itchy piece of fabric attached to all my clothes. I can feel it scratching my back as I walk. I try to rip at it and finally just rip off the whole shirt. You yell at me to put my clothes back on. I hate clothes.

 

I don’t deal well with change. I have been meaning to talk to you about this. Don’t tell me we are going to the park and then tell me we “ran out of time.” Where did time run off to?

 

Sometimes I am just getting into something and you tell me to clean up. I can’t leave my square half done. My square still needs that pink feather glued to it and I wanted to add the sparkles too. There is no way I am leaving my square! We battle a lot. I win sometimes.

 

I know some of these things can get very annoying. I am new to the world and I am just learning how to adapt and get around. Sometimes the sounds, smells and noises of life scare me. New experiences can be overwhelming and worry me.

 

I see so many things that can hurt me. Things you may not think are scary but are scary to me. Like the ducks at the zoo or the loud garbage truck. I know you tell me it is “just this” or “just that” – but I don’t know that – I am just learning.

 

So be patient with me. Pick your battles. Talk in a calming voice – even when I am screaming at the top of my lungs. You are my anchor in my crazy world – and one day I will really really appreciate it! I promise!

For more articles on toddler anxiety follow Anxious Toddlers Pinterest board:
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For a complete book offering your toddler’s perspective along with helpful parenting tips – read How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler

A must read toddler parenting book! How to Parent your Anxious Toddler. By child therapist and toddler mental health expert.


14 responses to “Dear Mommy & Daddy, from your Anxious Toddler”

  1. Marina says:

    Every parent should read this!

  2. Crystal says:

    I think that sounds like a sensory disorder more than just anxious. I have a niece like this.

    • Natasha says:

      Yes, it is a combination of anxiety and sensory issues. Many parents don’t realize that there is a strong correlation between anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorder. The majority of anxious toddlers show some signs of sensory integration difficulty as well. Sometimes the sensory component shows up before the anxiety itself manifests.

  3. Brandyn says:

    I love this! It’s so easy to forget that the world is a much bigger, scarier place for our little ones.

    Thank you for sharing with us at #MommyMeetupMondays!

  4. Talya says:

    Love this! #MommyMeetupMondays

  5. Jules Ruud says:

    This is perfect. It’s hard to keep in mind that kids are experiencing this big, bad world for the first time and if we think it’s scary as adults, it’s got to be terrifying as a child. I agree that every parent should read this. Thank you for sharing at #MommyMeetUpMondays!

  6. Michelle says:

    You described our son Jordan perfectly. We had a meltdown tonight and I’m still not sure why. He is a SPD kid along with anxiety. Thanks for writing this. It really helped me to remember how hard life is for him. He’s four and so bright and yet SPD and his anxiety effect him every day.

    • Natasha says:

      I remember when my daughter (who has SPD and anxiety) had those random tantrums as well. Luckily those type of issues fade as they get older. Hang in there!!

  7. Theana yan says:

    This describes my son sometimes and I think he has some sensory issues and perhaps anxiety he may have picked up from me. What would be your recommended course of action? OT, child therapist, ? Also would he still be okay in a public school system?

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Theana,
      I think an OT would be really helpful at this stage to help with the sensory issues. An OT can also give you great parenting tips on how to help your child work through the sensory struggles.

      A child therapist is great at helping you develop a plan on how to help your child be more flexible and deal with anxiety. If you can teach your child how to handle these struggles early, they’ll do much better!

      Some public school systems are great and have resources to help. It depends on where you live. Often kids with these issues do okay in the school environment. It is different for each child.

  8. saira says:

    I get that things can be hard. I do. Kids are learning and everything is changing and things can be overwhelming, but I cannot cater to my kids feelings all the time. Sometimes stuff has to get done. Mom’s have to pee. Teaching a child that it’s impossible to cater to their every need all the time is just as important and validating their feelings. Life is a balance and the goal is always to produce confident, well rounded, well adjusted adults.

  9. Louise says:

    This is a great read! I have 2 anxious children with sensory processing problems and I can highly recommend a book called “Why Smart Kids Worry- and what parent can do to help” by Allison Edwards. She reframes childhood anxiety in a very helpful way and gives great practical guidance on how to help your child deal with their anxieties.

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