The pandemic has obviously been a giant source of stress, apprehension, & worry for most of us, & it’s still going strong. It’s not just the risk of the coronavirus to our physical health- our mental & emotional health has taken a battering in these last few months.
Our kids are feeling it, too. Their “normal” seemingly vanished into thin air, & has been replaced by social distancing, masks, & the fresh hell that is virtual learning. Countless events, plans, & memorable milestones have been delayed or outright cancelled.
Teens & young adults are turning to various coping mechanisms to deal with pandemic stress. And while some methods are overtly destructive, others involve turning to a younger, simpler time in life… sometimes with a pacifier.
Voluntary age regression has recently been trending due to social media accessibility.
It’s a popular coping mechanism with teens & young adults. Many are sharing their experiences on social media in the hopes of encouraging others.
If your child is on TikTok or YouTube, there’s a good chance he or she has come across at least one clip featuring a teen sucking a pacifier. Or a young adult clutching a teddy bear while wearing a bib & even a diaper. Perhaps a teenager being spoon-fed baby food while coloring with chunky toddler crayons.
At first glance, you might think, “Kids sure do ANYTHING for likes these days!” And at second glance, you might think, “W…T….F??”
But for those creating content about voluntary (and involuntary) age regression, the point isn’t to be scandalous or outrageous.
Their intention is to be honest about their coping mechanism, & to bring awareness in order to reduce the stigma surrounding this unusual approach.
In case it’s unclear exactly what voluntary age regression is, the website Teenagers With Experience explains it as:
when somebody reverts to a child-like state of mind, often as a coping mechanism for things like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issuES.
Many of us have seen our children regress academically since virtual learning began. (Simply put, our child’s learning progress begins to slip backwards.)
Behavioral regression can happen as well; many kids that are have been worried about the pandemic have returned to bed-wetting, tantrums, or behaving in ways that they seem to have “outgrown”.
Voluntary behavioral regression is a deliberate choice to revert to a younger age.
It’s intentional, & the person engaging in it is adopting it as a coping mechanism to deal with PTSD, trauma, anxiety, depression, or past abuse.
Those that engage in this type of age regression (or “agere” as it’s often referred to online) occasionally participate in a regressed state as a “Little Me” or “Little”.
They adopt the toys, soothers, blankets & mannerisms of younger children (the age depends on the choice of the individual) & create a safe space.
However, it’s important to note that Involuntary Age Regression happens, too.
TikTok user @agerecutie spoke with Filter Free Parents to say,
“Regression is not always voluntary and because of Dissociative Identity Disorder what may look like age regression is actually just a little alter.”
Involuntary age regression usually occurs as a result of PTSD, Trauma, or Stress and has been in existence for a long time. It is most definitely not a trend. It often occurs with Dissociative Identity Disorder. So, what may look like a silly trend to outsiders, it is a way that those working through serious pain can cope.
Photo Credit: @nate_3006 (TikTok)
While I’d skip the sippy cup & the pureed baby food, those puffs?? They were delicious. I’d eat them right now.
No judgment on age regression, but I’d prefer to skip the whole toddler biting phase, amirite?
In some cases, the individual practicing age regression utilizes the assistance of a parent or friend to serve as a Carer.
According to Medium author Santini Priya:
Carers are people who act as a parental guide, and prioritize the safety and mental well-being of the Little they are caring for.
Simply put, a Carer does exactly what we as parents have done for our own young children: nurturing, loving, tending needs, & providing a safe environment.
While voluntary age regression may be met with skepticism (or worse), those that are into it make it clear that it does NOT involve: fetishes, sexualization, or any form of BDSM.
Age regressors chose to do so for the purpose of coping with various life stresses, healing from past trauma, or even as a relaxing hobby to distract oneself from pandemic-related stress factors.
And like any other current trend, social media is the place to be in terms of advocating for support, as well as to connect with like-minded individuals.
If you do a hashtag search on TikTok for #ageregression or #agere, you fill find tons of clips from teens & young adults that are into voluntary age regression.
YouTube also features instructional videos on the best types of equipment & gear to assist those interested in pursuing voluntary age regression, like Natalie’s Age Regression channel:
Some YouTubers were into voluntary age regression well before the pandemic; the channel Lil Kitty’s Life has a large collection of videos about the trend dating from 2018.
We all know that the pandemic has placed a tremendous amount of stress on adults and children alike.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with the pressures we feel, whether by healthy coping mechanisms or otherwise.
Regardless of your opinion on this particular coping mechanism, as parents it’s important to be informed. And, always speak with a mental health professional to become educated about the pros and cons of age regression, and to find out if it is right for your child.
But, since your child likely spends a fair amount of time (or if I’m being honest about mine, a HELLUVA lot) on social media, it’s important for you to be aware of the current ideas they are being exposed to.
So you can decide if and when to worry or how to come to terms with the fact that your teenager may now act like a threenager.