I am sitting here at my desk in my new home office that my husband built for me over the past 2 weeks. Looking out through the window, I see a bleak morning sun, trying to peak through the gray, overcast sky. I think about the year we have just left behind and I realize how much the Covid19 pandemic has cast the same “gray-ness” over 2020. Just like so many others across the globe, I want to shake it off and focus on the new year and the promises it brings. But , just like in the movie “Inside Out”, we also have learnt from the character “Sadness”. It is because we go through difficult times that we can again appreciate what we do have as we also discover our resiliency and our ability to overcome. This is where my thoughts turn to the children we serve in our work every day.
All children go through growth spurts physically, emotionally and socially. In the early developing years there is a massive growth period in the brain, caused by a multitude of new experiences that have to be made sense of. The growth is accompanied by varying emotions about this “new world” and the adaptive response to the environment accompanied by the relationships supports this build-up towards autonomy and a sense of self that confirms: “I can!” Children build this sense of self and autonomy based on their ability to solve the dilemma’s they face. “Why is she looking at me like that?” “What would happen if I do this?” “How can I plan to get what I want?” We are born with a natural propensity to want to move and develop ourselves. The milestones come and go in typical development. Each milestone, each growth spurt is an achievement providing a sense of purpose while creating a willingness to take new risks and push onward. During teenage years, we go through another opportunity to gain this sense of where we belong in this world. A new stage of unfolding occurs with hormonal surges that turns many lovely children into little aliens who seem to need nothing and everything from their parents at the same time. Parents laugh, smile, cry, support, and yes, also become frustrated and angry and all the while that developing brain is building problem-solving skills that is feeding their “toughness”, their resiliency. As parents we may say a lot, but it is through our doing that the child learns about life, builds expectations and feeds their psyche with regards to relationships.
If these milestones are celebrated, validated and emotionally anchored with a secure base in both parents, we have good reason to believe that this sense of autonomy will be reached. When children are atypically developing, this sense of wonder and curiosity is disturbed. There is a tendency to shy away from risk taking or take on risks impulsively without planning. The same milestones celebrated in others, arrive at a later date and does not look so “cute” any longer. I frequently wonder at the notion of “catching up” that I believe to be a great goal in itself, but not in the way I observe it play out. Children struggling with developmental delay that are overthrown with expectations and demands to do the catching up, frequently overwhelming them even more in the process. And where is the sense of autonomy inside of the self then? We do not build important milestone based on others knowing what is “good or better for you”. The autonomy that brings about resilience is build upon our own investigation and curiosity about this world. Our curiosity drives exploration; exploration drives problem-solving; problem-solving drives autonomy; autonomy drives resilience.
What do we do?
- Build a team of professionals around your child that has your child’s interest and journey at heart. A team that can guide you when to push, and when to hold back.
- Observe your child more than telling them what to do. Listen to what they are not saying and respond to their needs emotionally
- Do not become involved in intellectual battles of the will, rather understand that your child has an emotional need to be anchored by you, to feel secure and safe.
- Do not get caught into the trap that you need to deal with “this or that behavior today” otherwise my child will become a delinquent. Rather foster their emotional growth in the moment to enable them to not make that decision when the time comes
- Understand that the child is not truly looking for answers or solutions from you, but rather looking for your emotional response that could become part of their own repertoire. Lead them into solving their own problems, so they can own it.
The rain started falling now as the day dawns in my study. I always see rain as a blessing from above. It washes away so many hurts, past experiences and brightens the world with glistening droplets hanging from the trees. We can all start fresh, after all, it is a new year. Make this the year that we focus on building your child’s resilience so that whatever they face, they will face with: “I can!”
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like for us to support you with this goal.