Child regression: What you need to know
Children progress through various stages of development as they take their first steps, say their first words and embark on their first day of school.
Their progress is quite amazing really. But along with all those steps forward come a few steps back. Yes, sometimes children regress. What’s going on?
What is child regression?
Regression means your child is acting in a younger or needier way, seemingly going backwards, not forwards, in their development. You might notice that they’re not using skills you know they’ve mastered or that their behaviour has changed.
Signs of child regression can include:
- Seeming to lose skills like using cutlery, dressing themselves or potty training
- Crawling again when they can walk
- Needing your help and support more often
- Disturbed sleep
- Increased clinginess
- Temper tantrums
- Reverting to baby talk.
Why do children regress?
Rest assured, child regression is normal and common. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s quite normal for child development to be a bit of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ process.
- They’re investing their energy in progress in another area
- They’re feeling anxious about some changes like a new house, new sibling or new childcare centre or the monster they’re convinced lives under their bed
- They’ve hit a stumbling block and need to regather their energy before they continue moving forward.
How can you support your child as they progress and regress?
The first thing to do is acknowledge and manage your own feelings about your child’s regression.
It’s frustrating to find yourself cleaning up toileting accidents once again, dealing with meltdowns or facing bedtime battles. Your anger and frustration is completely understandable but it won’t help you address the situation with your child. So, take a few deep breaths and try to stay calm.
The best thing you can do for your child is to help them feel safe and supported. You can do this by:
- Imaginative play: This is a wonderful way to bond with your child and work through their worries with games about being a big brother/sister, going to childcare/school or taming the monster under the bed.
- Praise and understanding: Notice and acknowledge all the big kid things your child has learnt to do recently and let them know it’s OK if they need your help with some things.
- Gentle encouragement: Keep cheering them on to use new skills.
- Allowing some regression: Sometimes, children regress while they navigate an obstacle. If your toddler is learning the (very difficult!) life lesson that they can’t have everything their own way, then you can expect tantrums as they manage those big feelings. Stay calm and consistent, help them name and process their feelings, and maintain any boundaries you’ve set.
When should you be concerned about your child’s regression?
Again, regression is often a normal part of child development. Usually, as time goes by, you’ll see that your child is progressing again.
However, it’s worth talking to your GP or your child’s teachers if:
- Their development has dramatically slowed down
- They regress and don’t progress again over a long period of time
- They’re old enough to speak clearly in full sentences and yet they don’t
- They don’t seem able to follow simple instructions
- Their behaviour is very challenging
- They seem withdrawn and don’t relate well to others
- They’re still having frequent toileting accidents long past the time when they should be dry.
How can SpeechEase help?
We love helping children to improve their communication skills and relationships. We’ve worked with hundreds of families and can help reassure, encourage and advise you on how best to support your child.
Please register for our services if you’d like to book an appointment.
All information is general in nature.