Minimize Major Shake-Ups
What to do when there's a family emergency or you're going away for a weekend at your in-laws' home? "Trying to maintain some normalcy is most important when things are suddenly very different in a toddler's everyday world," says Dr. Thomas. 'Your child simply won't understand why everything is different, so she'll need familiar conventions to comfort her even more," she explains.
If you're suddenly dealing with an urgent situation, take some time to talk about it directly with your toddler. Using language she can understand, give her very basic information while reassuring her that everything's going to be fine ("Grandma is sick, and I'm going to go take care of her for a little while. Dad's going to be reading your bedtime stories tonight."). Keep everything super-simple and calm.
When away from home, try to maintain your regular schedule in your new location as much as possible. "Don't skip naptime, and definitely keep the same wake-up and bedtime routines," says Ryan. Also, take along a few familiar objects, like your child's cup and bowl for dinner, or her pillow and a favorite stuffed animal, so mealtime and bedtime will have the same feel and smell as they normally do. While this can help, your toddler may still have a few extra meltdowns during your trip. Just keep in mind that by introducing her to a few changes in routine, you'll be setting the groundwork for teaching her coping skills she'll use later in life.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Parents magazine.