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#1 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 10:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Mamas,

 

This post is going to be a bit long and probably so clueless that it will sound ridiculous. But I just need some help and I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm getting lousy advice and I think you all might be able to help me.

 

DS is about 13.5 months old. When he was 12 months, I felt great. I survived year one. He and I were really getting a great report and rhythm. I thought that I was really getting into the swing of being a mama. Then it seems like when he hit 13 months or so, he became a totally different child and I feel like I did when he was born- bewildered, out of my element, with no clue what to do.

 

I think he is just doing normal toddler stuff. So my concern isn't really that he's abnormal, it's more that like, I just don't know what I should be doing to help him at this age.

 

Here's what's happening...

 

He has begun to tantrum pretty often. But mostly for me. His daycare teachers talk about his sunny disposition. I asked them how they address it when he tantrums and they stared at my blankly and said- what tantrums? My husband, who picks him up from daycare at noon, says he is an angel in the afternoons. No fussing at all. That is not the child I get on the weekends or in the evenings (or even my mornings before work). I still see the sweetness in my baby boy, and there are moments of fun and laughter, of course. But I would say at this point, there's also a whole lot of crying and resisting, and waves of frustration/anger in him. Again, I know this is normal for his age, but I can't help but wonder why he seems to only do this with me. I don't know what I'm doing or not doing. I've sat and watched DS w/my husband and when he redirects him, it takes only a couple of tries. My technique seems the same (get super excited about this other amazingly cool thing that is incredible!), but it doesn't take.

 

The things he tantrums about are sometimes things I cannot discern at all. It seems like he just suddenly loses it, but I can't tell why. One second we are sitting together looking at a ball and he is cooing and the next moment he is winding up to a big cry. Again, DH saw him do this with me and he said "Boy I got nothing for you. He doesn't do this when we're at home alone." I know I'm nuts, but sometimes I feel hurt about this, like DS just doesn't enjoy time with me as much as other caregivers.

 

Other times, the reason is obvious- he has managed to pull the cover off the tv remote and is about to suck on a battery, which I gently remove from his hand, trying to trade it for another toy. I don't say no very often, only when there is an imminent emergency (he is crawling fast toward the oven door and the oven is on and very hot). I try to say positive things like "let's find something safer to play with." I try redirection, everything. But he almost always just throws himself on the ground and wails. We were at a playgroup yesterday, and there was a cabinet in the room. The other babies (all his age) were playing with it and the mamas decided smashed fingers were imminent so we moved our kiddos away and tried to get them onto something new. Other babies, they took 2-3 tries to leave the cabinets alone. DS went back 8 times. Finally I said kindly but firmly "We're done with this. I'm sorry but no more." And he arched his back and screamed and I had to take him out of the room for a bit to calm him down.

 

When this happens, I understand he is very frustrated with all he wants to explore but cannot. I just don't know how to help him with his emotions at this stage. I can't talk to him about what he's feeling b/c he doesn't have language just yet. I can't really give in- the things I typically take away I do so for safety, and I mean I can't very well be like oh sure you can play with that cheese grater, go for it. 

 

I've been given advice to ignore him when he tantrums and just wait until he is done, but that doesn't feel right for me. I think he needs help to deal with these new and extremely powerful feelings. They might be overly dramatic to me, but I know they're real. I usually just sit next to him quietly, unsure what to do but feeling like I should at least be near him. I've also been told that I'm too permissive and should be saying "no" far more often in a more "authoritative" tone. But you know, I did that just once, a sharp "No, DS." And it was like throwing gas on a fire. It made everything much worse much faster.

 

He has also been having lots of sleep disturbances lately. He used to sleep through the night and did from like 9/10 months on. But that seems to be over and I am not sure why. He is not sick or hungry. He just hates being alone in his sleep area. I know, I know, we could try co-sleeping again. But he gets very excited that we are all in bed together and gets even more riled up. Plus let me tell you, he is one amazing kicker and even if he slept, we wouldn't. So that will not work for us. Again I'm being told he's testing me and that I shouldn't respond. But he will cry for hours. And in that case, no one is sleeping. So how does that help?

 

And the final behavior that I don't really know what to do with is eating. He will no longer eat if we are watching. Usually we all sit at the table and eat. Lately this is not working for him. He tries to push the tray of his feeding chair away and wails until we let him go free. He will only sit there and eat if I am doing the dishes or cooking and am not near him or facing him. I don't know why this is. Family dinners have always been fun for us. We put on music and my husband and I catch up on our days and the atmosphere is very positive. I am worried I've done something to make him feel shame about food but I don't know what that would be. 

 

I'm sorry this is long. And you mamas of older toddlers probably think I'm crazy for fretting over this stuff. But this is my first child and I didn't grow up around young children, and I just feel so lost. I know my son needs me to help him with these big new feelings but I don't know how. Techniques? Books? Advice? 


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#2 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:06 AM
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Gosh.  It sounds like pretty typical toddler behavior, but that doesn't make it any less infuriating.  I don't have any good advice for you or books, but I wanted to post and say that I remember that phase well. hug2.gif


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#3 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Awww, thank you, AdinaL! It helps to know this is par for the course and it will pass. It is hard to see him overwhelmed and crying and to feel so helpless.


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#4 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:18 AM
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Are you doing any sort of signing with him? 


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#5 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:32 AM
 
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When my DS was about that age, I sometimes felt like someone had come in the night, taken my baby, and issued me a whole new kid.  The baby to toddler transition is IMMENSE.  It can be hard on everyone, including the new toddler, which is (IMO) one reason why toddlers are so volatile.

 

The tantrums don't mean he doesn't like being with you.  Perversely, the tantrums may mean he feels *most secure* with you.  You're the safe place, he's 120% sure that you're going to put up with him patiently no matter what.  All kids have that one person.  It's a tough spot to be in.  You just have to try to hang in and stay calm.  You don't have to ignore the tantrum, you just have to make sure not to play into it.  And sometimes it's a question of keeping ahead of them in terms of figuring out when they're hungry or tired.

 

When my kids were this age, I found that baby gates were awesome.  If I had to intervene every time they got near a forbidden thing, they would go back to That Thing all day.  If there was a physical barrier like a gate, they'd check out the gate once, get bored, and go do something else.  This thing you describe here?

 

Quote:
DS went back 8 times. Finally I said kindly but firmly "We're done with this. I'm sorry but no more." And he arched his back and screamed and I had to take him out of the room for a bit to calm him down.

 

This is age-appropriate, responsible boundary setting.  You did great there.  We all have that moment.  There are a bunch of ways to deal.  None of them are any fun.  It was a yucky moment, and you did fine.

 

I don't have an answer on sleeping - mine made me nuts at this stage too.  Would sitting in the room with him for a while help?  What about a nightlight?  Does he have a special lovey?  Can you try giving him something that smells like you?  I have nothing certain, just a bunch of experiments to try, and no guarantees.

 

On the eating - eh.  At this point, I'd feed him while you cook or wash dishes or hang out in the kitchen, and then gate him into the dining room with you while you eat with your partner.  Keep dinner easy on everyone.  If that means DS is playing under the table while you eat on it, that's fine.  He'll eventually get back to being interested in hanging out for this social time, probably sooner if you don't push it.

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#6 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oops--- meant this part in response to the sign language question. :)

 

We are not. I have tried but it's been difficult to get all his caregivers on board. I don't think they're opposed, just forgetful. :\ I'm also unsure if I'm doing it correctly... do you have any techniques to recommend?


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#7 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:36 AM
 
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Read The Happiest Toddler on the Block. It will give examples of how to speak toddler.  Short version:

empathize, reflect back the same emotions (so make a sad face if he is sad), and keep it brief and to the point:  "Sad!  You are sad!  You want the ball."

Something about them feeling validated (or just shocked that their parents are suddenly grunting at them) seems to stop the tantrums.

It's normal for him to tantrum more with you.  They put on their game face for the world and then save the meltdown for us because they know they're safe with us.  Not fair, but normal.

 

For the sleep, my DS doesn't like to be left alone either, so we stay with him until he falls asleep.  I get a lot of books read this way.  DH and I trade off whose turn it is.  A solid bedtime routine is key.  

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#8 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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@MeepyCat

 

THANK YOU. I think I just maybe needed to hear someone say that I'm not totally screwing up this stage of motherhood. It is hard to feel like I'm doing it right a lot of the time. We are moving in a few weeks to a larger place, and there will be much more room to roam. I'll make sure we get some baby gates for our place now and for the new one. This is a great idea. 

 

I really appreciate your feedback. :)


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#9 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Partaria View Post

Oops--- meant this part in response to the sign language question. :)

 

We are not. I have tried but it's been difficult to get all his caregivers on board. I don't think they're opposed, just forgetful. :\ I'm also unsure if I'm doing it correctly... do you have any techniques to recommend?

 

We really loved the Signing Times DVDs.  They are 20 minutes long, so not a ton of TV time (I don't know how you feel about the TV thing - but you can also watch them and just use the information there) and they have happy songs and such.  DH and I watched the first few when dd was under a year and then just started using the sign with the word whenever we said it to her - such as sleep, eat, more, milk, no, yes, please, thank you, etc. Then as she got older we started using more specific ones. We didn't really know if it was working until she signed sleep on *our* faces one night.  She picked up milk and more pretty fast. :)  I really think it helped in giving her an avenue to let us know what was going on in her wee head. LOL  But beyond that we didn't use anything specific, just repetition when we said the word or were doing the action. 


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#10 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 11:51 AM
 
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I have a 15 month old girl so I can SO relate. It did get better for us though so take a deep breath and try to relax a bit.

His changed behavior around you; could he be missing you and feeling off when he's with you finally? I can only suggest giving him lots of one on one attention when you can to see if it changes. Has he started daycare recently or does daycare predate this behavior?

The tantrumming: sure, they dont understand words like "frustrated" but they can pick up on our emotions. Like you, I'm permissive until safety is an issue (or if she is going for someone else's property). When the inevitable tantrum happens, I pick her up (unless she's REALLY thrashing around, then I give her a few seconds), hug her and explain in a sincere voice what is happening. For example "I know you wanted to play with that battery, but it is dangerous. It can hurt you and then we would be very sad. We can't play with batteries, but we can go find the kitty." or "I know you wanted that toy but it's not ours. We don't take things that don't belong to us. We can play with with our froggy instead." Usually this interrupts her enough to stop screaming and she is more open to being redirected. I know they dont understand complex ideas very well but I think this way they get that we are not arbitrarily spoiling their fun. The firm NO works for us sometimes but only as a prevention. If she is making a beeline for the cat food, she gets "no thank you, come back to mommy" but once a tantrum hits, saying no -like you said- is just fuel for the fire.

Oh the sleeping. My DD is up multiple times a night to pee. She also wants to nurse a bit and have a drink of water and I often fall asleep before she does. That means I'm in a recliner with a toddler across my lap for half the night. One idea that works for some is to put a twin mattress on the floor, stay there till LO is asleep, then leave. In the middle of the night you may conk out first but you could leave at the first kick. Maybe just you or dad in his room wouldn't be as exciting.

Eating. While my DD is not shy about eating, she has a fair weather friendship with the high chair. I know it's probably not the greatest but often I will let her run around with finger foods or sit her on an adult chair or on my lap for variety. I think the eating in private is something he is trying out, probably just a phase. I wouldn't worry too much and probably the more you fight him, the more he will insist. I would let it go for a couple of weeks to see if he gets over it while eating in front of him to show it is normal.

Ok so I'm a bit disjointed too; toddlers happen. I hope something here is useful. Of nothing else, know that this is pretty typical toddler stuff most moms deal with :-)
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#11 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's great advice, skycheattraffic. Thank you for sharing your experience! 

 

Right now, DS's "room" is actually what I suspect was once a walk-in closet off our bedroom that no longer has a real door on it (we live in a 150 year old building cut into funky apartments). There is a curtain between him and us, but nothing else. The twin bed sounds good- I think we will try that once we move and he has a for real room with space. :) Or maybe I could try reading in the rocking chair for a bit.

 

The tantrumming does pre-date daycare. He has been there half-days since about six months. We usually go on a walk together every night when I get home. Maybe that's not enough interacting, though...he's in a stroller or an ergo on my back. I might try playing in the yard with him on a blanket. He enjoys that and it might help us connect more. He freaks out less when we're outdoors, that I have notice.

 

I will loosen up about the food- sounds like it's a phase and nothing to get too worried about. I swear, everything he does at this age I'm like, omg, is this a developing a neurosis he'll be telling a therapist about in 30 years?! Hahahahahaa. Seriously, I need to relax!


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#12 of 20 Old 07-09-2012, 04:03 PM
 
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Yeah I'd save the walk for weekends when you have longer stretches together. I think more interactive things daily might help if it's the separation bothering him. One thing my DD loves is "helping" me with laundry. I fold and stack, she takes them down, we have a good laugh, she puts a crumpled mess back in the laundry basket and repeat. Reading books is another big hit. Good luck :-)
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#13 of 20 Old 07-10-2012, 02:08 AM
 
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I have a 22 month old, and I like to think of tantrums as static on a television that's tuning in. Toddlers are still developing their neural pathways and coping with huge new emotions and self-direction- some weirdness is inevidable. Once I stopped thinking "I could have prevented this meltdown if I just did/said/acted the right way in time!" I stopped feeling bad about him melting down. Now, I just go with it and try to see what he needs- sometimes he needs me to be right there ready to comfort him, sometimes he needs a minute while I look away to get it out of his system. Eh, he's learning, it's not the end of the world. I agree with the person who said they tantrum with the people they feel safest with, too. It's not going to damage him or your relationship, so do what seems right and don't guilt trip yourself.

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#14 of 20 Old 07-10-2012, 03:01 AM
 
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I also agree that it is very normal for kids to mostly have tantrums with one particular person, mostly the mom. Same here, a "no" from anyone else gets a mild complaint, from me a full-blown reaction. It also sounds like he's doing a lot of testing his limits and that is perfectly normal. He's testing what will you accept and waver on, and what is an absolute no-go.

 

The only technique I can offer is try not to get too emotional about it (so much easier said than done, I know), and be consistent about what is ok for you and what not.

An example that I remember from around that age, I had to pick the plate from the floor something like several times in a row and repeat ("plates remain on the table") all in a calm voice (felt like a heroic effort for me, seeing I have quite the temper). When she'd still do it, I'd put the plate away and let her cry for a bit before putting it back. It took many days but she finally understood the rule "plates remain on the table".

 

Maybe you can try seating him at the table when you guys eat without offering/pouring him food, let him ask for it first? Maybe it'll give him some control over his eating and ease up the struggle?


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#15 of 20 Old 07-10-2012, 03:04 AM
 
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I have a 22 month old, and I like to think of tantrums as static on a television that's tuning in. Toddlers are still developing their neural pathways and coping with huge new emotions and self-direction- some weirdness is inevidable. Once I stopped thinking "I could have prevented this meltdown if I just did/said/acted the right way in time!" I stopped feeling bad about him melting down. Now, I just go with it and try to see what he needs- sometimes he needs me to be right there ready to comfort him, sometimes he needs a minute while I look away to get it out of his system. Eh, he's learning, it's not the end of the world. I agree with the person who said they tantrum with the people they feel safest with, too. It's not going to damage him or your relationship, so do what seems right and don't guilt trip yourself.


yes! It really is about which mindset do we approach the tantrum with.


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#16 of 20 Old 07-10-2012, 06:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is all terrific advice mamas, thank you!

 

Last night and this morning I tried some of the suggestions here. And I think things are a little easier. I'm not even sure he was calmer, I think that I just weathered it better.

 

I didn't realize I had been doing this, but I SO was..

 

 

Quote:
Once I stopped thinking "I could have prevented this meltdown if I just did/said/acted the right way in time!" I stopped feeling bad about him melting down.

 

He's going to freak out, and I need to just remain in the moment and try to bring my best self to each moment. As we've all said, that is not always so easy, but I am trying. I am also really glad to hear that toddlers often save their biggest meltdowns for mom. I had been feeling like everyone was doing something "right" and that I was messing up, but it sounds like this is pretty normal. 

 

Last night we did do a walk, but we did a wagon ride instead of stroller or ergo. So we stopped often to touch leaves and flowers, and collected them in the wagon. We also collected interesting twigs and rocks, and we stopped at a park for a few minutes to crawl around in the grass. We really had a great time- I think the face to face stuff is a great idea and will be so helpful. I also discovered that lots of his morning angst has to do with not being as mobile as he wishes. Right before we have to leave in the morning (DH is already at work so it's just the pair of us at home), it's unavoidable for me to kind of go from one end of the room to the other, or between two rooms several times packing up his bag for daycare and getting my lunch and things ready to go for work. (I know- I could pack this up the night before. But I have done that and I'm so incredibly forgetful that inevitably, there are a billion last minute things that I have to get.) This is usually when he loses it. But today I made sure he had his little mail cart/walker thing and could more quickly/easily follow me, and it was much, much better.

 

Thank you again for the great advice and feedback on your experiences!


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#17 of 20 Old 07-16-2012, 03:27 PM
 
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Hi,

 

What you describe sounds totally normal to me.  Here you've survived the first 12 months, and things are feeling pretty good, and all of the sudden, boom, whole different kid.  Yep, welcome to 12-16 months, another tough phase.  It's a whole different ballgame now.  When you're done with this stretch, there's 24-36. 

 

The tantrum thing sounds pretty normal.  It probably has nothing to do with you.  I remember that was when the hitting/biting/crying thing peaked and was the most intense.  There were so many things my son wanted to do at that age, and he was a frustrated little mess until he could do them by himself.  And kids are almost always worse with mama (or whoever's been playing mama) because that's usually who they feel safe and comfortable with.  (With strangers, most kids are on their best behavior.)  Like you I was working weekdays, so evenings and weekends were our quality time together, and unfortunately evenings are when the behavior is at its lowest ebb, and weekends, they play the cling/reject game.  It's tough.  Especially when everyone around you says, "well he never acts like that with me."  (Great, glad to hear it!  How nice for you.  Grrr.)  Yeah, it hurts because you assume it's about you, and feel like you must be an awful person because your kid reacts like this.

 

The things that upset a child of this age are a total mystery.  I assume most of the things that come out of nowhere are developmental "moments".  The cause is probably a greater awareness of what's going on around them.  There's so many things a toddler wants to do for themselves, but can't.  Everyone around me is able to do this thing, but gosh darnit, why can't I?  The other thing is probably dealing with disappointment and frustration for the first time in their lives, and learning how that works.  When you think about it, it's a lifelong endeavor--learning to reconcile your desires/wants with reality.  Nobody's good at it before 3, that's for sure!  

 

"We're done with this. I'm sorry but no more." is something that you'll be saying a lot over the next 17 years.  The teenage version is equally charming, believe me.  There's no one way to deal with tantrums and powerstruggles, so find what feels right for you and roll with it.  And remember, no matter how hideous they act at the time, it rarely lasts long, and they still love you when the storm's over. 

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#18 of 20 Old 07-16-2012, 07:30 PM
 
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I am going through this now with DD who is 14 months. I wanted to rip my hair out yesterday cause nothing I did made her happy. She fussed when I was holding her. Then I put her down and she continued to fuss some more. I also work full time and she's a different baby at daycare. She's happy and laughs all day and never cries. I am so frustrated. I must have momnesia or something cause I don't remember if my son was also like this at that age. It's amazing how much has been blocked out. I am so ready for this phase to be done.

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#19 of 20 Old 07-17-2012, 12:40 PM
 
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I second the book "Happiest Toddler on the Block."  It has been invaluable for my and my now 27 month old, who at your son's age was doing pretty much the same things as yours.  I was so frustrated and guilt-ridden and had no idea how to deal with the "screaming meanies." The techniques are still useful today, with a whole new wave of toddler tantrums, and I still pick the book up every few weeks and get something new and useful out of it.  Don't worry, you will survive.  Both of you.  


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#20 of 20 Old 07-19-2012, 12:42 AM
 
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You've gotten great advice, and I'd like to chime in and say - yup, all normal!  But I would disagree with the idea that toddlers can't understand what words like "frustration" mean.  I have labeled his feelings for him since he was an infant, just like we all narrate our activities and name objects. When my little guy was 16mo he got a bit constipated one day and was fussing, so I snuggled him and read him his favorite book - titled "baby feelings".  When we got to the page that says "I'm frustrated when I can't do what I want" he pointed to the picture of the frustrated baby (he had the exact same expression moments earlier) and then pointed to himself.  Just because the words may be to big for them to pronounce, doesn't mean they aren't useful for helping them start to understand and manage their emotions.

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