Each new stage in life brings developmental changes and opportunity for growth and learning. It also opens new doors to an ever-changing list of possible therapies or community activities. Development is made up of so many key aspects of ourselves. How do we decide which ones to prioritize over the others?
“I want to set my child up for success but it can get so overwhelming!”
We all want to provide our children with the strongest possible foundation for healthy development. When I’m at my son’s speech and language appointment, it’s clear to me he needs more speech therapy. When I’m at physical therapy, I think he needs more gross motor practice (things that help with balance, coordination, and body awareness). When I’m called in to speak with the school, it’s more playdates and social skills practice. When I’m reading parenting magazines, I read on one page that I should be providing lots of unstructured, free time, but the next page says structured activities like martial arts multiple times per week. YIKES! How do we do it all – while taking care of everything else there is in life?
Before you get overwhelmed with parent guilt, stop, breathe, and know you absolutely cannot do it all.
When it comes to filling our lives, we need to think about what works best for our unique families. Take in all of the information from the experts and recommendations from the well-intentioned but remember that individuals’ needs and circumstances do not remain the same over time and neither should we.
To help prioritize supports for your child’s development, ask yourself these questions:
- In what area is your child’s greatest need? Is it social-emotional or physical? Cognitive or language? Chances are there is overlap. We do not develop in isolated compartments, but in a dynamic, interactive and complex way. Answering this question is not meant to be easy, but may help you start prioritizing your time.
- In what area is your child’s greatest need RIGHT NOW? This is a separate question because I think it is important to remember that we are currently in one moment in time. The decision you make to enroll in a therapy today, does not mean you are letting go of the other therapy forever, just for right now.
- What works for your family right now? Some therapies we need to commit to regardless of other priorities. Others need to be made based on family logistics: commutes, finances, job commitments, sibling commitment, bedtime, or built in downtime for your child. We are constantly reassessing and re-adjusting our child’s needs and that is a good thing.
- What brings your child joy? Where are their strengths and how can you harness that strength to propel their development?
- Is the relationship valued? No matter if you decide the best thing for your child is to get them out that door and into a swimming lesson, kicking and screaming all the while, or if you makes happy sounds in the car on their way to an occupational therapy session, the power of the therapist or teacher to develop relationship with your child is key. The relationship is the ultimate motivator. Whether it leads to subtle eye contact or silly giggles, building a relationship leads to meaningful development of multiple goals no matter which specific therapy you’ve chosen.
As you consider what is working and what is not working, you may find you are looking for additional or different services. Exceptional Lives staff have thoughtfully and carefully created a Resource Directory for services available in your community in Massachusetts.
Depending on your criteria (only within a certain distance from home, a provider that accepts MassHealth, or a center where I can access multiple therapies at a time), you can trust that the services listed have been contacted screened by our staff. Happy searching!