Stressed 2 Year Old or Testing 2 Year Old?

Updated on July 12, 2010
M.T. asks from Virginia Beach, VA
5 answers

My two y/o daughter has shown us severe, hysterical crying fits after returning from vacation in April (DD stayed with grandma and grandpa) and in July (a family vacation). In April she needed several weeks to adjust back to our standard routine of daycare and activities. She is showing similar signs now after our recent trip.

Could she be stressed? Angry? Confused? Does anyone have similar experiences or stories they can share on how to deal or help ease her back into routine?

Or is she just two and testing her bounds with us?

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So What Happened?

It has only been a few days, but today I saw a small improvement. My DH and I have talked to her at length in reassuring, calming tones about how things are different (visiting grandma, traveling by plane, going to art class) but we always return home and do our regular things. With being back to her normal schedule, time and lots of reassurance i am hopeful that all this will continue to ease her back to 'normal'. I just wonder what other traveling families do when they return home? Return a few days early to help her adjust? Or just grin and bear it each time. Thanks .. as always .. for great advice and reassurance!

More Answers



answers from New York on

After our vacation it took about 2 weeks to get back to normal. Between missing naps, late bedtimes and just a whole different experience than what he was used took it's toll.

I attributed it mostly to the lack of sleep.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on


What would she have to gain if this were a test?

Some kids get very aggitated, angry, stressed, and confused when their routine is interrupted. The kind of reaction you are describing could be something you should be concerned about. If you have cause to ask if other things she does are typcial, have ever wondered about her speech patterns, or her comminication skills, or if you have noticed sensory, behavioral, or social concerns that have caused you to wonder a little, then you should put these two things together and seek a developmental evaluation. For some kids, it seems very non specific, and you might just think she dances to the beat of her own drummer, but if you have ever wondered that, you should be proactive rather than waiting to see.


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answers from Portland on

ALL behavior is intended to get some need met. Defiance, whining, pouting, tantrums – also affection, snuggling, humor. Any particular behavior may not be a good strategy, and for little ones, it's often a bad strategy. Children have meltdowns, scream and kick – not as deliberate, planned manipulation, but as an intuitive way to try to meet their own NEEDS, one of which is to let out frustration, exhaustion, or even grief when it becomes too much for them. If your daughter has a wonderful, fulfilling time with her grandparents and was with them for more than a few days, there's a very real possibility she's missing them so much it hurts.

I hope you will NOT to think of her feelings as "wrong." She really doesn't choose them, any more than you "choose" to feel angry, worried or discouraged when she behaves in ways that baffle you. Anger and frustration are natural, and completely legitimate. If you discourage them by shaming or punishing, the feelings won't go away, they'll just go underground and emerge in some other way.

I'm assuming you don't know what her meltdowns are about, so she's apparently not able to tell you yet. I'd try two things – google Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Toddler on the Block, to see videos of how he empathizes with and wins the attention of little kids mid-tantrum. This is Emotion Coaching, and really helps a child feel supported in her emotional needs so she can process them and move forward.

I'd also make a photo book with Grandma and Grandpa strongly featured, so she can see them when she's missing them. Have them call to chat with her and remember some of the fun things they did. You can even ask them to leave a "love note" on your answering machine so your daughter can hear their voices when she's missing them.



answers from Minneapolis on

How did she sleep on the trips? She may be stressed from lack of routine and sleep. Although---2 yr. olds are prone to tantrums and fits, and testing it's hard to say. Just do your best to keep her world routine and consistent for a while now. Then she will feel safe and know what to expect.



answers from Norfolk on

She is expressing her dislike of a schedule of daycare and activities as opposed to days filled with the attentions of doting grandparents, or vacation days full of parental attention. Who wouldn't? Unfortunately it is a lot easier for adults to deal with the "back to reality" blues than it is for little people who didn't understand the changes were not permanent. She needs reassurance and a little lap time. Tell her you know she misses her grandparents - you do too - and you miss spending all your time with her on vacation. Tell her you wish everyday was vacation day but that big people like Mommy and Daddy have to go to work to get the things they need to take care of DD. Will she understand your words? Not really. But she will understand your tone of empathy and that you hear her, understand why she is upset and that you are comforting her. She will readjust - she just needs time.

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