Phew! It’s Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids & Teens – And What They Need From Us

Phew! It's Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What is Normal Behaviour for Children and Teens

Being a kid or a teen is not for lightweights – it’s tough out there! There are important things that need to be done, that only they can do. The nature of these jobs depends on the developmental stage they are at. Knowing what is normal behaviour for children and teens can help to smooth the path for everyone involved.

Even as adults, we can be prone to tantrums, tears and wanting to give the world (or particular people in it) an almighty spray sometimes. For the most part, we can hang to the dramatics and anything that might land us in trouble, but even with all of our experience, our fully developed brains, and our capacity to see around corners, it’s hard some days. Imagine what it’s like for our kids.

Understanding what our kids are wrestling with and the developmental goals they are working towards will make their more ‘frustrating’ behaviours easier to deal with. Things will run smoother if we can give them the space and support they need to do whatever it is they need to. Of course, none of this means totally surrendering our boundaries around what’s okay and what isn’t in terms of behaviour. What it means is responding with greater wisdom, clarity and with more appropriate consequences. Life just gets easier for everyone when we are able to take things less personally.

Here are some important developmental stages and the difficult behaviour that might come with them. You’ll often find that their behaviour, though unruly and baffling at times, is completely normal and a sign that your child is flourishing and making his or her way through childhood or adolescence exactly as they are meant to.

The ages of the stages are just a guide. When checking to see whether your kids are on track, read the stages around the actual age of your child. The progression through the stages is more important than the age at which this happens. As long as kids are moving through the stages, it doesn’t matter if they get there slower than other kids.

Infants & Babies (0-12 months).

  • Everything will go in the mouth – hands, feet, food, toys, shoes – you name it.
  • If they are crying, there is something they need – a sleep, a cuddle, food, changing. They don’t yet have the words to communicate, but crying is a spectacularly effective way for baby humans to get big humans to move mountains for them. One of the beautiful things about babies is that they will never ask for more than they need.
  • Wary of strangers and might get upset when familiar people aren’t close by.
  • Babies will stare. They love faces and will stare at faces in real life, in books and in mirrors. Oh to be at an age where staring at other people is socially acceptable – and cute.

The support they need.

Babies have an important job to do – they need to learn whether or not they can trust the world and the people in it. For their part, they will work hard to give you the opportunities to show them how safe and secure they are. They might not have much of a vocabulary but they are masterful little communicators when it comes to letting you know when something isn’t quite right. Be consistently attentive to their needs so they can feel the world as a safe and secure one for them. Feed them when they are hungry, comfort them when they are scared, cuddle them when they need to be with you.  This will form the foundation for their exploration of the world, their independence, their confidence and self-esteem, and their relationships.

1-2 years.

  • Will become more interactive.
  • No understanding of intentionality – they see, they do without thinking about why or what it means. For example, when they bite, it is not to hurt, when they grab toys from other kids it’s not to cause upset, it’s to … well, everyone knows that things are for grabbing, right. Or eating.
  • Will follow their curiosity and will pull things down or apart to see what happens. Ditto with throwing anything onto the floor.
  • Not developmentally able to share.
  • Might seem bossy and selfish, but keep in mind that anything they are interested in or considers to be theirs will be seen as an extension of themselves. Of course, nobody else is entitled to take it!
  • Beginning to understand possession, and developing a strong sense of self.
  • Two of their favourite words to say, ‘Mine!’ and ‘No!’
  • Two of their least favourite words to hear, ‘Mine!’ and ‘No!’
  • Will often wake during the night.
  • Towards the end of this stage, they may become more defiant as they start to experiment with their independence. May tantrum because they become frustrated by their lack of words and their lack of ability to communicate.
  • Tantrums will also be driven by their experience of big emotions (frustration, anger, sadness, shame) that they don’t have the words for.
  • Will be more likely to play alongside other kids, rather than with them.

The support they need.

  • Their attention span is still fairly short, so use distraction to direct them away from what you don’t want them to be doing.
  • When you give them a new rule or direction, it’s likely that the old one will be forgotten. Sometimes you will love their short attention span. Sometimes you won’t.
  • Be positive when you see them doing the right thing.
  • Start letting them know the things that aren’t okay.
  • Ignore the small stuff. There’s so much to learn so it’s best not to overload them. Let them get used to the important things first.
  • Your child will be starting to understand what you are asking but for the sake of your own sweet sanity, let go of the expectation that they will do as you ask. Keep asking and guiding, but don’t take it personally if it doesn’t happen straight up. Or at all.
  • Be kind and gentle when correcting. They are doing their very best with what they have. If you ask for too much you might end up with a more anxious or more defiant or less confident three-year-old.
  • Help them put words to what they are feeling, ‘It’s upsetting when you have to pack your toys away and you want to keep playing isn’t it.’

3 years old.

  • Will experiment with independence. May lead to tantrums.
  • Will want increased control. May lead to tantrums.
  • Will become frustrated when disappointed. May lead to tantrums.
  • May see an increase in tantrums.
  • Will flip between wanting to be independent (‘I do it!’, or ‘by myself’) and wanting to be treated like a little person (‘carry me’ or ‘you do it’).
  • Will form a special attachment to the word ‘no’ and will practice it often. Even when they might mean ‘yes’. (Ahhhh toddlers! Fortunately, evolution has given them a profound capacity for cuteness while they are sleeping. This is important for those catastrophic events, such as when you miss the notification that sandwiches are now to be served as little triangles, not little squares as was previously deemed acceptable. If this happens, just go with it – you’ll need your energy for when they realise you haven’t bought the toothpaste with Elsa on the tube.)
  • Might stutter or stammer.
  • Will start to assert control over their environment by wanting to plan activities, do things by themselves, try challenging things.
  • Might keep calling you back when they are put to bed.
  • Might develop sudden fears and phobias.
  • May confuse real and make-believe, so may have one or a collection of imaginary friends.
  • Still won’t understand sharing and will often assert ownership, ‘Mine!’.
  • Might show jealousy when parent gives attention to other children.

The support they need.

  • Write this down, ‘It won’t be like this forever’. Now stick it on your mirror where you’ll see it every day.
  • Let them know when they do something well. They want to know that you’re happy with them and that they’re doing okay.
  • Be gentle when they get it wrong. Your child wants to do the right thing but has things to do and places to be along the way. Don’t come down hard on mistakes – they’re still figuring it all out and they have a way to go. Treat mistakes as opportunities to teach them something valuable.
  • Don’t have too many rules and be consistent with the ones that you have. Too many rules and consequences that are all over the place will only confuse them and will set the monkey on your back. If you teach them that sometimes they can get away with it, they’re going to keep going. You’d worry if they didn’t.
  • Use ‘no’ gently and in moderation. You want to encourage their exploration and experimentation with the world and their place in it. Guide them, but don’t take away their initiative. And don’t give them any more reason than they have to use it at you.
  • Give them the freedom and space to play and encourage their experimentation with physical and imaginative play. Support their efforts to initiate play so they can feel their own capacity to influence their environment.
  • Encourage decision making but limit choices (‘Would you like to have a bath first or choose your pyjamas first? Would you like to wear the red shirt or the yellow shirt today? Would you prefer corn or avocado with your dinner?’ And then, maybe when they’re bigger … ‘Would you prefer to make me a tea or a coffee?’ Oh let’s just indulge the glorious possibility of it all for a moment.)
  • Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for yourself to recharge. The battles will be easier when you’re replenished.
  • Have bedtime rituals. Bedtime at this age can be exhausting for everyone. Have a ritual and let it be lovely for both of you – a story, a cuddle, a spray of lavender around the room, a kiss, and the words, ‘Love you. Night Gorgeous Boy,’ – or something.

4 years old.

  • Will start to be critical and will define the world in simple terms. Things and people will be right or wrong, good or bad, nice or not nice.
  • They will start to realise the power of their words and will sometimes use them to get their way or to control others. Their command of language will still be loose, so they will often back up what they are saying with actions (hitting, pushing, grabbing) or non-verbals (tone, volume, facial expressions, posture/stance).
  • Will become competitive.
  • Will still blur reality and fantasy sometimes. Might tell lies, extravagant stories, or have imaginary friend/s.
  • Still building their sense of self and experimenting with independence, so might be stubborn, defiant and bossy.
  • Will do all sorts of things to avoid bedtime.
  • Might have bad dreams.
  • Might develop a fear of the dark or become anxious thought of being separated from parent or caregiver.
  • Will start to enjoy playing with other kids rather than simply alongside them.
  • Will test their limits with you but will still be keen to please and help you out when they can.

The support they need.

  • When you set rules, talk to them about why the rules are important. They are curious and developing their ideas about how the world works. It doesn’t mean they’ll ‘get it’ straight away, or that they’ll comply.
  • Keep your requests simple.
  • They desperately want to make you happy. Let them know whenever you see good behaviour.
  • Don’t argue with a four-year-old. Just don’t. They’ll out-do you any day and if they don’t have the words or a sound argument, they’ll just keep asking ‘why’.
  • When it comes to less-than-impressive behaviour, ask what happened but don’t ask why they did it. Asking ‘Why did you do that?’ will just encourage a lie because the boundary between fantasy and reality in the world of a four-year-old is very – very – loose.
  • When they do something wrong, apply gentle consequences but explain why the behaviour is wrong and that you know they can do better next time. They need to know you believe in them – they will do as you do.
  • Be consistent. If you don’t think it’s always important to enforce a rule, your child will, understandably, think it’s not won’t always important to follow it.
  • Encourage their independence but remember they are still young. Let them be little people when they are stressed or tired.
  • Give them lots of kisses and cuddles, even though they are ‘big people now.’

Five years old.

  • Will understand the importance of rules but might divert from the rules when playing. Rules tend to be ‘flexible’ – for them at least.
  • May accuse others of cheating if they don’t win a game.
  • Will start to show empathy and an understanding that other people might have points of view that are different to their own.
  • Will be able to share but might still find it difficult, especially when it comes to their special things.
  • Might be afraid of failure, criticism and spooky things like ghosts or monsters.
  • Attention span will start to increase which will impact on the type of discussions you are able to have with them.
  • Might come across as being an ‘expert’ on everything.
  • Will enjoy joking around and will start to develop ‘potty’ humour.
  • Will be looking to make their own decisions, particularly around what to wear and what to eat.
  • If starting at school, might be moodier, more sensitive or more tired than usual. It’s exhausting having to sit still and concentrate for long periods.

The support they need.

  • Encourage anything that will get your child moving, particularly if it is in a group or a team with others. This will help your child to develop important skills like taking turns, getting along with others, working together, negotiating, compromising, and winning or losing graciously.
  • Set aside time each day to play with your child or spend one on one time together. This will give your child the opportunity to let you into their world, which will always be one of the best places to be. From here you can get a feel for what is going on in their beautifully flourishing minds.
  • Start to expand your child’s emotional literacy by naming and discussing feelings.
  • Connect rewards to responsibilities. ‘How about you help me clear the table and then you can have dessert?’
  • Continue to keep rules simple and try not to have too many.

Six years old.

  • It’s pretty likely that they will know a lot more than you. Just ask them.
  • May start tantruming again.
  • Can start to test the limits but will still want to please you and help out.
  • Will seek praise for their school work and for the good things they do.
  • Will seek to master new skills and to feel competent.
  • Might worry about being away from you.

The support they need.

  • Encourage their efforts and acknowledge when they have worked hard.
  • Encourage effort over outcome to help them develop a growth mindset and a strong self-belief in their capacity to achieve.
  • Ensure they get the support they need if they are struggling at school.
  • Avoid overpraise or meaningless praise and let them know that they are special, but so are other people.

Seven years old.

  • Might tend towards complaining, usually about their parents or the rules, but also about friends and other kids.
  • Will feel misunderstood by many.
  • Can be dramatic about school, friends or life in general.
  • Will try to use words to talk about how they are feeling but may become frustrated and angry when they are upset.
  • Will be becoming more aware of what other people think.

The support they need.

  • Listen and validate what they are feeling and know that you don’t need to fix their problems.
  • Discuss how they might solve the things that are causing them trouble. Give them space and encouragement to come up with their own ideas.
  • Don’t be drawn into the dramatics.
  • Don’t immediately think that things are a mess because they are saying they are.
  • Jump on the positive.

Eight years old.

  • Will want you to think the way they do and will have little tolerance for your difference of opinion.
  • Will be very sensitive to what you think of them.
  • Will often fight with the mother.
  • There won’t be a lot of grey. Things will be black or white, right or wrong, good or bad.
  • This tendency to think in absolutes might cause a little trouble with friendships. Take comfort in knowing that yours won’t be the only small person struggling with this. They’ll be okay – this is the part where they learn about friendships and how to get along with people.

The support they need.

  • When you’re praising their good behaviour, be clear about what it is they have done.
  • Avoid arguing whenever you can. With their black and white thinking, an argument will just mean that someone is right (them) and someone is wrong (you). Instead, ask them to explain their point of view and encourage them to see things from different angles.
  • Spend plenty of time together to cement the relationship for the pull away that is coming at adolescence.

Nine years old.

  • Friends will start to be more important than parents, and this will continue through adolescence.
  • What their friends think will start to become more and more important.
  • Will narrow the friendship field by having closer friendships, but less of them.
  • Will share jokes and secrets with friends.
  • Will push against rules and directions and may disrespect you.
  • Will be able to be loving and silly but will also develop the capacity to be selfish, argumentative and abrasive.

What to do.

  • Provide them with opportunities for independence and to make their own decisions.
  • Avoid being too bossy or directive.
  • Encourage them to start thinking about things from another point of view, ‘What would so-and-so say about that?’ ‘How do you think she felt when that happened?’

Ten to eleven years old.

  • The tantrums of childhood will be calming down by now. Enjoy it because adolescence has heard that you’re relaxing and it’s on its way.
  • Might still argue about rules and the necessity and detail of them.
  • Will try to explain away misbehaviour through excuses and justifications. They will fight hard to find the loophole in the rule.
  • Promises become important and they will remember EVERYTHING – except when it’s their turn to take out the rubbish.

What to do.

  • Don’t make promises you won’t be able to keep. Once they have something on you, they have you.
  • Avoid arguing with them whenever you can. They will often have an argument for everything. Hear what they have to say, make your decision, then pull out.
  • Let them push against you in safe ways – let them try different things, express their own opinions, and make their own decisions when appropriate.
  • Know where your boundaries are and be ready to implement consequences when they make a bad decision. Make the consequence about their behaviour, not about who they are.


  • Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult.  Just like you had to do at their age.
  • What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
  • They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.
  • May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
  • Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.
  • Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
  • They may become sexually active.
  • They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks. (For a full explanation of why they do this, see here.)
  • They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
  • They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
  • They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that (See here to understand teenage emotional flare-ups).
  • Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier. They will need about 9-10 hours sleep so will need to sleep in for later.
  • Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.

What to do.

  • Don’t be judgemental or critical – they need your love and connection more than ever.
  • Understand that they need to find their independence from you. Give them the space to do this. Over time, their values will be likely to align with yours.
  • Know that your teen isn’t rejecting you, but is finding their own way in the world – it’s an important, healthy part of being an independent adult – even if it feels bad.
  • Let go of control and go for influence. The harder you fight to control them, the harder they will push against you. The truth is that when it comes to adolescence, we have no control – they will decide how much they involve you in their lives, how much they tell you, and how much influence you have. Make it easy for them to come to you when something happens or when they need guidance.
  • Give them information, but don’t lecture.
  • You may or may not know when they start to become sexually active, so it’s important that they have the information and guidance they need to stay physically and emotionally safe. See here for an age-by-age guide for what they need to know.
  • Don’t buy into arguments – ask them to state their case and talk to you about the pros and cons of what they want. By nature, teens will overstate the positives and underestimate the negatives. Encourage them to tell you some of the cons – nothing is ever black or white.
  • Be the calming force – breathe and wait for the wave to pass over you. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, to peak and to start to fade, provided you don’t do anything to give it oxygen.
  • Help them to plan ahead and see around corners, but without judgement.
  • Encourage their social connections and give them space to strengthen their relationships. An important part of their development is to decrease their independence on the family tribe and to do this. To do this, they will feel an increased need to strengthen their affiliation with a friendship tribe. Encourage and support this wherever you can.
  • Help them find safe ways to take risks such as sports – competitive and non-competitive.
  • Let them know you will always do whatever you can to collect them from any situation when they want to come home – regardless of the circumstances and how late or far away it might be.
  • Let nothing be off-limits when it comes to what they can talk to you about.
  • Wherever possible, let them sleep in to catch up on sleep deficits.
  • Listen more than you talk.

And finally …

Know that along the way from infant to adult, there are some important things that need to be done. There are things to learn, mistakes to be made, boundaries to be pushed, independence to be found. It will be a beautiful, exhausting, baffling, sometimes terrifying, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes traumatic adventure for everyone. Be patient and don’t take their opportunities to learn and grow away from them by taking their mistakes and their less than ideal behaviour personally. Their greatest growth will come from the mistakes they make and the boundaries that they push up against.

Even with the strongest supports in place, they are going to make mistakes – sometimes spectacular ones! Provided they have the support they need, their mistakes will be about their growth, not your parenting.

For our part, it is important that we are there with love, nurturing and a steady hand to guide them and with boundaries for them to feel the edges of themselves against.  Understanding what is normal behaviour for children and teens will make this easier. Growing up is a journey of learning, exploring and experimenting – for them and for us.



My middle son is now 14 and his 16 year old brother has special needs. He also has a 12 year old brother too. Their father and I separated 5 years ago and they all live with their father. Up till about 3 years ago (when I had a “fatherless” baby) my middle son would see my and talk to me. Since my little one came about, the middle son and his father hate me and the middle son refuses to see me or talk to me and hates the 3 year old (and the other two as well from what I can gather). Your article helps me understand his behaviour a bit and I can only be patient and wait. I hope, not sure if his behaviour towards me is normal. The article is fantastic though for the 3 year old and 12 year old, it describes the 3 year old to a tee, and as health visitors have now disappeared, it is good to have a few ideas.


It sometimes seems to me as a teacher and parent that children are hitting some of the behaviors we were used to about a year or so earlier. Is that what others are finding. My 7 year old is more like the 8 year old above for example and the friendship stuff I see at school (primary) especially between girls seems to be happening earlier.


This was a great read, we have a 13 year old and a 5 year old. The 13 yr old was recently diagnosed HFA with Bipolar, and it has been a real struggle. My wife and I try to follow a lot of the same concepts you write about, but it is difficult when our son shows zero remorse for his actions. Lying, stealing, aggressive physical behavior toward his mother who is disabled and toward his little brother, all with no evidence of conscience. We have every door and cabinet locked for fear of what will be stolen, cameras throughout the home for property damage, but cannot seem to convince him this is not a good way to live. Doctors trying new medications (ability now), which increases stress as he doesn’t want to take them. I fear for his future as much as I do our sanity, his behavior is leaking outside the home with shoplifting and other incidents, and I know the judicial system doesn’t take mental issues into account as much as they should; afraid he’ll wind up into the system before we find a way to help him through this.


My 16 year old has changed so much the past year. He is in year 12, he talks down to me and his father, swears and overreacts to most situations. He is only nice when he wants something and expects everything to be handed to him. My husband has had enough and refused to drive him to work until his attitude towards us changes. He has everything nice room, friends over, girlfriend, private school and we brought him his first car.
I’m so confused about where to go from here. He keeps telling me he will leave. Please help as I don’t want to keep giving and not receiving any respect.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Penny this can be such a confusing age for parents and teens! What you are describing sounds like very normal teen behaviour though, and it’s all driven by the massive changes that are happening in the adolescent brain. These changes will drive behaviour until about the early 20s, when the brain becomes the fully developed adult version. Here are some articles that will explain the changes you see in your teen, and what’s driving those changes:

>> They’ll do what? The what and the why of the changes that come with adolescence

>> How to Increase Your Influence With Your Teen

>> Teenage Flare-Ups – What You Need to Know

None of this means that you don’t have boundaries – teens still need to know where the limits are. What it means is that if they don’t take too well to those boundaries, they’re probably travelling along just as they should. It can be so frustrating I know! Just know that you aren’t alone. Keep guiding your son gently with firm boundaries, and he’ll get there.


I feel for you… as a mom who is way past this now… my son told me when he was 17 that “I have my own life now mom” and got so angry at one point he wouldn’t talk to me anymore or see me. His father and I were divorced. He didn’t talk to me or even write to me for 3 years or so…. he finally started coming around. It almost killed me though. Later on when he “got his adult brain” I guess… he told he was sorry and he didn’t know why he did that. I just let it go. It would only make him feel guilty to let him know how horrible and hurtful it was. My son is 35 now. I often think about that time and I am always STILL… very careful not to say something or be opinionated about anything, unless he asks me. He is married with 3 children now. They live 4 hours away. I see them when I can. We stay in touch mostly through email and texts. The way of the world. Raising kids is no easy task and he may find this out on his own some day. I think what is hard about being a parent.. you are their “number one” for so many years — then you are not. I will admit I tried to submit “some control” and maybe that is why he turned away so fiercely. I’m sending you a hug!!!

Carolyn Collins

When do we intervene in our 16 year old daughter’s education? She resists help. She gets mostly B’s in school. Should we allow her to make mistakes in her work or push to advise her?

Karen - Hey Sigmund

The thing to keep in mind is that you can push, but it won’t necessarily make a difference. What you can do though, is try to increase your influence with her. A primary developmental goal of adolescence is to experiment with independence from the family. This is why so many teens push against their parents. What this can mean is that the more you push her to do things your way, the more she might push back and do her own thing anyway. This doesn’t mean you step back altogether and have an ‘anything goes’ approach – not at all – but it means that you go for influence while at the same time letting her know that you know that you respect her need for independence.

She may be resisting help because she wants to show you that she is independent and can do it on her own (part of the developmental goal of adolescence), or she might have a fixed mindset. Here is an article that will explain about mindset. It was written for younger kids but the principles are the same for teens and adults Try to focus not on her grades, but on the effort she is putting into her schoolwork. Is she putting in as much effort as she can? Is there more she can do? Grades can be interpreted too much as ‘ability’, so when you say that her grades aren’t good enough, there is potential for her to hear that she isn’t good enough. When you focus on effort, it becomes less easier for her to see where she might be able to work harder, without taking it as a comment about her ability. It also becomes easier to find where effort can be improved (study timetable? less tv? to-do list? study and break schedule?).

The other thing to keep in mind is that teens will respond more to rewards than to punishments. Their brains are primed to attend more to the positives of a course of action (what will she get from studying hard?) than from the negatives (if you don’t study you’ll fail). Here is an article that explains that

The other thing to keep in mind is that there is so much pressure on teens, and when there is too much it can be demotivating (why bother?/ where do I start?). Be quick to let her know the things she is doing well, and gentle but firm, and open to their needs and their growing independence, on the things you would like to redirect.


I really liked this article. The only thing I would suggest is considering not using food as a reward as an example in the age 5 section. I’ve seen many patients in my practice as an RD who struggle with not using food to reward themselves after being raised this way. I often suggest using play or physical activity as a reward instead.


How bout my 7yr old! He’s facially disfigured,no rt ear, sloping eye, small jawbone etc!! He’s been ok till now! Becoming more aware ya know? Anyway, he’s bringing back old phases that I’ve still been unable to understand! Latest is wanting more than ANYTHING, Barbies and all the stuff involved! What’s this all about? I mean I don’t criticize him by any means. But I’m afraid others will! And we’ve tried to teach him to be proud of himself in ALL his entirety but I fear it’s gonna be to much! Im just wondering why the feminine wants and actions again!!?

Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s difficult to say what might be happening here without actually knowing more. It’s not unusual for kids to regress for a little while to earlier stages that felt safer for them. This can happen if kids are feeling worried or anxious. They can regress for a little while until they feel strong enough to move forward. As long as though move through it and keep progressing through their developmental stages, it’s nothing to worry about. If it’s causing problems for your son in his day to day life though, then it might be more of a problem. If you’re worried, it would be a good idea to get some outside support. The counsellor at your son’s school should be able to point you in the right direction, and will be able to guide you on whether you need to be concerned about your son’s behaviour or not.


Personally, I say let him be who he is. Even if he sticks with more traditionally ‘feminine’ options and this isn’t a phase, so?what? We are trying to get our girls into more science and engineering careers to get themselves out of that gendered box for their future. Who says he won’t be an amazing fashion designer, loving and available father, nurse or teacher etc since he wasn’t pushed to be someone he isn’t at age 7…


Question to the feminine things. Let him express his self how he wants cause he is dealing with internal needs. As long as appropriate with the dolls. He needs to know u are ok with it. The world doesn’t need to know. Embrace that he is, encourage him to be happy, and the more u accept him (right here ,right now it will enhance his self esteem. If u are worried about him being GAY, let it go, he will be what he will be. Being gay starts in the womb Not by what u do or don’t do


This is a lovely article. I wanted to understand the right age of child when we can make him sleep with grand parents, staying with us. As I m also concerned that if I make my kid sleep with them at an early age, it might effect him like separation anxiety etc. Please clarify this.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Thanks Lubna. The answer to this depends on a few things, including the age of the child, and what you mean by your child sleeping with his grandparents. I’m assuming you mean sleeping in the same room, and not in the same bed? There are no clear answers for this. In many cultures children sleep in the same space as the adults in their family for many years, but something to keep in mind is the potential for developing sleeping habits that will be difficult to break. This will depend on the personality and temperament of the child. Some will find it easier to transition into their own bed than others. The other thing to keep in mind is the impact on the quality of sleep of the adults in the same room, and their relationship with each other. It is an issue that many people tend to have very strong (and very divided) opinions over, but there are no right answers. I would be reluctant to force any child to sleep in the same room as other adults if it is not what he or she wants, unless of course you are restricted by space. If your son is older, be guided by him. If he wants to sleep independently, and there is no reason for him not to, I would support that.


We have twin boys who are 13 and in 7th grade. They seem to have friends at school but do not hang out with any of them outside of school. At home they have no desire to do outdoor activities. They prefer playing video games and working on the computer. Last year they finally got interested in bike riding. They don’t play well with kids in the neighborhood. They are always arguing with each other. When they are bored, they go to their shared room, close the door and do what I call stim. Also our one son tends now to clear his throat constantly when he’s bored in private. They put their one hand in the air and then with the other hand with a pencil make a motion in a circle over and over again. Then the other twin talks non stop while he is stimming. He also has to have his hands moving and he has to talk all the time. They both don’t seem to have any troubles in school and perform very well. Their brains don’t seem to remember simple tasks and if you remind them, they get mad instantly and yell at you. We have to remind them several times a day that they talk to loud. They don’t seem to have any respect for others in the house. We also have a 16 year old daughter who seems to be normal for her age. We’re not sure what to do or if we are doing anything wrong.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

It absolutely does NOT sound as though you are doing anything wrong. If your boys are performing well in school, and have friends in school, it sounds as though they are on track. They are entering adolescence and so you are likely to see all sorts of bewildering behaviour. In terms of not remembering small tasks, it might not so much be not remembering, as not having the tasks on their priority list. Here is an article that explains why teens flare up for no reason Getting mad for no reason (especially at parents) is all to do with what’s happening in their brains, so you definitely aren’t alone there!

In relation to the ‘stimming’, is this like a shared thing they do together, like a secret handshake? Whether or not it’s something to worry about probably depends more on whether it’s something they could stop if they wanted to (like a secret handshake) or whether it’s something they feel they don’t have any control over (like an obsessive habit). The main thing to look for with any behaviour is how much it intrudes into their day to day lives. Things become a problem when they cause a problem. So, if they were wanted to stop the stimming but didn’t feel as though they could, and became distressed by it, that might be the time to intervene and perhaps get it checked out. On the other hand, if it was just something they did together and it wasn’t causing them any problems, or problems with school or friends (because they could control it if they wanted to), then it might not be such a cause for concern. The issue might be more of guiding them about when it is ok for them to do it and when it isn’t.

Here are some articles about the changes to be aware of during adolescence. It’s so easy to take their behaviour personally (such as not seeming to have respect for others in the house), and though it’s important to redirect the behaviour that you want to change (such as dispresect) a lot of it makes sense when you understand the massive changes that are happening in their brains. These changes are all for the better and will lead to healthy, happy adults, but in the meantime it can be harrowing for parents! Here are the articles:

>> They’ll Do What? The What and the Why of the Changes that Come With Adolescence
>> The Adolescent Brain – What All Teens Need to Know
>> How to Increase Your Influence With Your Teen
>> What Your Teens Need You to Know

I hope this helps.


Please look up the terms PANDAS, PANS, and CANS. It’s an acronym. The throat clearing is what triggers me to tell you to do so. I have 11 year old twin boys, very different from yours but they have Been diagnosed.


Terri I prefer not to talk in this forum. A Couple things I will say What behavioral plan do u have? Do u have time limits on video games? How is there self esteem?

I can help u—i work with therapeutic behavior techniques and much much more I do pro-bono work just to give back to struggling parents


Sometimes, saying a certain word to your kids will make them very angry and they will yell, you need to talk to them and be calm. Also, put cameras in their room or walk in without asking, don’t ask why. And that’s about it. If thir twins they’ll always be together and share everything.


If you’re putting camera’s in your child’s room it sounds like you have severe issues and need some intense therapy. I feel bad for your children.

Karen Young

I absolutely agree that cameras in the room is not the way to go. Fear can make parents do all sorts of things that don’t seem to make sense from the outside, but which are an attempt to keep kids safe.


My husband and I adopted four siblings internationally 9M ago, ages 7-13. Our 11yr son struggles greatly with emotional regression, insecurity, and is very needy for attention. He is on anti-anxiety meds and see a child psychologist. Reading your article, he bridges a 3-6 yr behavior. For the first 6M he was very physical and non verbal when he was angry, we are progressing, but very slowly. We are concerned he will never catch up emotionally or behaviorally to his actual age. Thoughts? Other three children are doing great.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s sounds as though your son is in good hands if he is seeing a child psychologist. Keep working with him. Your son is about to enter adolescence and what we know about adolescence, is that the brain becomes even more open to change. The change comes with experience, so now more than ever is the time to expose him to the right experiences and the right environments to nurture the behaviour you want to see. Your son’s psychologist will be able to work with you to help to ensure that he is getting the opportunities he needs strengthen and develop in the best possible ways. The main thing is to keep working with him to give him every opportunity to reach his full potential.


This is a great step by step in parenting. However, I’ve found that parenting a young adult is the hardest stage. This type of guide for the one stage I was never prepared for would be so very helpful.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Mindy I hear you! Parenting young adults can be so difficult! The adolescent phase actually lasts until about 24, because the massive brain changes that happen as a part of adolescence aren’t fully complete until around then. The challenging behaviours (as bewildering as they are) usually have a really important reason behind them – all to do with the massive brain changes that happen from about 12-24. If you can understand what is happening in their brains, it can really empower you as a parent and make the stage a little easier to move through. Here are some articles that can explain what’s happening:

>> They’ll Do What!? – The What and the Why of the Changes That Come With Adolescence
>> The Adolescent Brain – What All Teens Need to Know
>> Teenage Flare-Ups – What You Need to Know to Make a Difference
>> What Your Teens Need You to Know –
>> Teenagers and Risky Behaviour – Why They Do What They Do and Why Punishments Won’t Work

I hope they help. It’s certainly an adventure!


Thank you so much for this post. I have been struggling with my 3 year old lately and this makes me feel much better. I am a former fifth grade teacher and have decided to stay home with my children and start an in home daycare to make some money while doing so. My 3 year old has struggled with this and as a result she has started biting, hitting and kicking some of the other children. Most of the time she is great with using her words and is thoughtful and caring of others, but reaches a point where it seems she can no longer tolerate the company of others. I was wondering if you had any advice about how I can support her through this as well as make sure the other kids feel safe and welcome in our home. I also worry about how her behaviors will rub off on them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

What you are describing isn’t unusual. At 3, your daughter is still learning how to get her needs met in a way that doesn’t hurt other people. Her capacity for empathy is developing, but it’s in its early stages. The brain strengthens with experience, so the most important thing at this age is to keep exposing her to situations that will give her the opportunity to ‘practice’ her empathy. To do this, first of all validate her feelings (or what you think are her feelings) –
‘I can see how angry you are. You’re upset that you had to share you toys. I understand that. It’s hard when you have to … isn’t it. Then, start getting her used to the language of empathy. It doesn’t mean she will turn things around straight away, because the idea is that she wil strengthen her self-talk in situations where she needs empathy. This might look something like … ‘What do you think [other child] would say/fee/think/do. If you were [other child] how do you imagine you might feel? She might have trouble answering these at first, and that’s okay. There’s plenty of time for her to get this right. Just guide her along the way and gently teach her the lessons she needs to learn. It sounds as though your daughter is in good hands.


Thanks so much for the great read. We have two boys, one 12 and one 8. The 12 year old and I have been finding it tough for the past few months. I know that I need to let go, stop pushing and not take things personally. Food for thought.



Can you give a little advice on the toileting side of things with a 3 almost 4 yo boy. He knows when he. We’d to go but is just point blank refusing to use the toilet and will continuously mess himself. Then out of the blue he will do it all by himself.. then next day back to messing again. I give him so much praise when he does do it but not sure where I’m going wrong when he doesn’t?? Any advice would be great. Also have tried treats reward charts… etc feel like I’m on my last legs and wanting to put him back into nappies ??

Karen - Hey Sigmund

This can be a tough stage. There is such a variation in age when it comes to kids being ready to use the toilet. The good news is that it sounds as though your little man is capable of doing it when he wants to – it’s just that he doesn’t always want to. It sounds as though you are doing everything right, but he’s just not quite ready to be interested in it yet. Be patient, and if you can, let go of needing it to happen – and I know that is easier said than done!

At the moment, he seems to be experimenting with his body and how it works and the control his ability to control it. When you think of it through his mind – he’s been completely ok not using the toilet for over three years. It can be difficult to see the point in starting now – but he will. You might already be doing this, but give him little reminders throughout the day to see if he wants to use the toilet – without coming across as obsessive about it of course. It might be that he forgets that he needs to take himself off the toilet, and is still getting used to the signals from his body. I completely understand how frustrating it is when you know he is very capable of doing what you need him to do. The main thing is to remember that you are not doing anything wrong. They are their own little beings and they do what they need to do when they are ready, and ‘ready’ will be different for all of them.


Good post. We have to grow again together with our children, and we are tired, painful, but happy with their childhood time.


Love this article it’s right on point & makes you feel like you are not in fact nuts…AND that your little monkeys are not the only ones causing havoc on a daily basis!!! We have 6 children age range from 20 right down to a 10 month old with 12,8,5 & 2 inbetween so always a tantrum or a child that knows everthing this is brilliant. Thank you

Karen - Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Kellie! Wow – 20 down to 10 months – what a wonderful adventure! Tantrums and the knowing-of-everything come from beautiful independent minds – sounds like they are travelling along just the way they’re meant to.


I have a newly-13 year old son so I was curious to read the adolescent section of this. Could you please clarify what’s being said in this sentence? (Maybe it’s an editing issue?):

“They will need about 9-10 hours earlier so will need to sleep in for later.”

Hey Sigmund

Oh nooo! You’re right – it’s an editing issue. It should have read, ‘They will need about 9-10 hours sleep so will need to sleep in for later.’ Gosh how many times have I read that post and it still slipped through! Thanks for pointing it out. All fixed now. If you have started venturing into adolescence, here is a post that might be helpful for you:
The Adolescent Brain: What They Need to Know


Thank you so much. Really struggling with my 3.5yr old and his tantrums and disobedience. Was being to hate his company and feel that I was doing something wrong. Now I know it’s normal and it won’t last forever.

I feel tearful with relief. Thank you

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Liz. Sounds like your little man is right on track. Tantrums and disobedience can be so tough can’t they, but they are so normal. I’m so pleased the article was able to give you reassurance.


This is really timely!

I’m having trouble with my 4 year old who’s enjoying herself testing the limits. Not really sure I should be more harsh in the discipline side of things or let time take care of this stage…

But based on the recommendations, I guess I haven’t been ‘explaining’ enough and will definitely try that!

Hey Sigmund

Eve – yes! 4 is definitely an age for limit testing! That doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for us parents though does it. At 4, kids are learning so much about themselves and the world and trying to make sense of the way it all works. Think of it like being new to any job – there’s so much to take in and there are going to be mistakes as they experiment with the best way to do things. It’s also going to take time, so don’t be discouraged if your little person is taking a while to learn the lessons. Every time she gets something wrong she will be learning something, with your guidance.

Discipline should always be more about teaching than punishment (think ‘disciple’). The learning will come, but there’s no hurry. It’s why they are kids for such a long time – it takes a while for them to understand how the world works, and the best way they can be a part of it.

The most important thing is the relationship you have with your daughter – the stronger your relationship, the stronger your influence (though it might not always feel that way!). Influence happens best with clear boundaries, and gentle, steady guidance around those boundaries. It all takes time, and although harsh discipline might seem to have a more immediate effect, it doesn’t necessarily teach the lessons you want to teach. That comes from your influence, your conversation and your gentle, loving guidance. It comes through the relationship. If discipline is too harsh, it runs the risk of dampening your child’s curious spirit and their willingness to explore the world and their place in it. There is no window in which they need to learn the limits. As long as your guidance is steady and strong, your daughter will be well on her way to learning the lessons she needs to learn (even if that takes a while) and growing into the healthy, well-adjusted, curious, brave and strong person that she is capable of being.


Thanks so much for your reply…

What made me wonder if I should be more of a discipline master was when I read about some articles about Asian parenting.

The moms are strict, always involved in every aspect of the child’s life, setting schedules for classes (musical instruments), and setting high expectations academically.

They generally do well and have a close-knit family as grown-ups.

What are your thoughts on that?


My thoughts on that is that while realistically high academic expectations are good, there is a danger of psychological problems as a result of this strict upbringing.
My dad knew a Chinese American kid named Willy Tung who was raised that way, and he always felt he needed to be Number 1. When he got to Harvard, and was not at the very top of the class, he killed himself.
Granted, this type of thing doesn’t always happen, but the risks of such an upbringing are severe. I saw one of those daughters, on TV, on the verge of crying because she got an A minus in calculus – no easy task, but her upbringing made her feel like she was a borderline failure for doing that, and I know that because I have to grapple sometimes with unhealthy perfectionistic tendencies myself.
People can also burn themselves out if the expectations are too high. However, if the expectations are too low, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe it is a good idea to have high expectations, generally a little higher than the kids themselves might have, and definitely higher, way higher, than the doom-and-gloom expectations you will be given if your child is either severely cognitively disabled or incorrectly thought to be so – professionals who evaluate those kids underestimate them alarmingly often, and many parents believe them. Heck, I was evaluated that way when I was very little. That should say something about how rampant these underestimations are; if they can underestimate someone who now has a near-genius IQ that badly, they can certainly wildly underestimate a kid who really does have intellectual disability or else motor disabilities that make them appear so. However, it is also important to not push past the point where kids are starting to show a lot of stress, either, or else are significantly underperforming in an area, and to slow down the pace of expected progress if a kid is having trouble, while at the same time expecting that they can and will progress, at their own pace. And if the method being used is laborious, you might want to see if another one will work; sometimes kids, especially autistic ones, make no progress in one area only to suddenly do it one day in a certain setting (like a theater) or when they reach a certain age; environmental and developmental changes can trigger certain elements they have been implicitly learning all along to suddenly come together, “click”, and be capable of being used. And no, it is not magic, it is a cognitive process common to many autistics, including me (in my experience, those skills were mostly physical and athletic-type skills).

Anna K.

What an excellent post! I really like your “The support they need” recommendations, these are extremely useful for many parents. We actually printed this article and included it in the package of our handouts for parents. Thank you Karen for spending time and effort to write this.


our 3 yr old boy can be oh so sweet at one point then all of a sudden throws tantrums like the whole world is falling apart on him. I sometimes feel so helpless. It is quite a new experience to us because our elder son, turning 6, was quite a bit more tempered when he was little. it is encouraging to know that we are not alone and that kids will be kids and they will move on and mature as long as we give them the love and support they need


Thankyou for putting this developmental information in a form I can easily share with my husband to help understand and nurture our boys. At times ‘normal’ behaviour can be so hard work!



We have an almost three year old boy who is the light of our life – most of the time, LOL!

I’ve been looking for something like this for a while!


Such an interesting article – my son just turned 3 and is a complete mix of desperate to be independent and then ‘baby’ behaviour. I’m struggling to establish when I should ‘pander’ to it and carry him down stairs/feed him and when I should insist he does things himself/or not in some cases! I’m finding it difficult to maintain consistency and then difficult to join that consistency with my husband. We seem to have different areas of patience so he ‘gets away’ with different things (like whether his light stays on at night/whether he dresses himself) depending who responds which must be confusing to him.

I’m striving for gentle parenting but feel I’m shouting and saying no and being impatient too much. (Having a new baby is adding to the limited patience) Reading the above has helped me understand his behaviour more so I hope I can be more patient and calm. I’d be very interested in any other articles about this age group. Thank you so much for your knowledgable insight.

Hey Sigmund

A new baby can make life all the more colourful! I understand what you mean – it can be difficult to know when to encourage their independence and when to scoop them up. As a general guide, if your son can do it himself, encourage him to do it himself. So, if he is able to dress himself and feed himself, encourage him to do this. There will be times he is beyond it – tired and cranky and things are starting to spin out of control. This is when it might be the time to ‘catch’ what is happening for him and take over. This isn’t the time to teach independence, but he can (eventually) learn the importance of being noticed and noticing, supporting people when they need it, validating what others are feeling etc. Even as adults, sometimes we just need someone else to take over. When he is in this space, Let him know that you can see that he’s tired or frustrated or upset or whatever it is that he’s feeling and if you can, slow things down. Give him a cuddle – this in itself will start to reduce his stress response and calm him down. Then, redirect him to whatever it is you need him to do. In these instances, you can still encourage him to do things himself, but it will be more likely to happen if he can feel as though you get what he is feeling. ‘I can see that you’re not happy right now. It’s been a big day hasn’t it. Let’s get dinner sorted so you can have a story. How about if I sit with you while you eat.’ Or something like that. I know how hard this can be with a new baby and you can only do what you can do. The point is to let him know that you’re there and that you notice what’s happening for him. This helps to put words to his big feelings and even by doing that, it can make sense of things, help him to be seen and help to soothe him. It doesn’t mean he will settle down straight away or jump in and want to do things by himself, but he will feel encouraged and supported which will hopefully make it easier for next time. Otherwise, encourage his independence. When you believe he can do it, he will believe it too.

Darcy Bailey

awesome summary of the developmental stages ! simple, clear and totally to the point. So often (as a therapist) I am needing to moderate the parental worry or frustration of their child’s behavior with age appropriate expectations ~ with that, so often parents are relieved to know their child is ‘normal’ in terms of what is generally happening with kids their ages. This is reassuring and validating. Thank you !

Hey Sigmund

Thanks Darcy. Yes – it can be such a relief to know that our kids are on track, particularly because things can often look so different to the way we thought they would look!

Barb Lees

Thank you for a great article. I will be sure to share it with others.
My main struggle I am having is that I have a 27 year old daughter who has moved back home. There is a lot of stress and she has ADD to complicate things more.
Do you have any articles or advice on how to best help and relate to adults with ADD.

Hey Sigmund

Thanks Barb. I don’t have any articles at the moment about adults with ADD but there is a lot of research happening in the area. One of the really important things to keep in mind is to focus more on what they can do than what they can’t do. It’s the same for any of us but people with ADHD are often directed to focus heavily on the things that need improvement. This tends to start in childhood and carries though to adulthood. The intention of this is to support the development of develop necessary skills, which is important, but the over-emphasis on it can be disheartening. What’s important is that the balance is right – there has to be a lot more attention on the strengths, compared to the things that need more work.


My six and a hslf year old stiĺl suffers with separation anxiety. I have to tske her all the wsy into ghe classroom everyday and she clings on to me so i cannot leave untill she has the full attention of another adult. Help!


sorry .. my son hit send before I had a chance to proofread it .. gotta love his enthusiasm .. and hope it made sense as I cant see it anymore … let me know if you need clarification on anything … 🙂


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Thanks so much @maggiedentauthor♥️…
“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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