All parents feel guilty sometimes, but it seems to occur more often when you’re parenting a child who has special needs. You might think “Is this my fault? Could I have done something differently?” And having other children can make things harder – you might feel pulled in two different directions trying to meet all of their needs. You might feel stressed, sad, or even angry or resentful sometimes – and then you feel guilty for having these completely normal emotions! And of course there are the feelings and worries that go with the types of treatment you choose for your child. You might wonder if you’ve chosen the right therapies or programs, and that adds another thing to feel guilty about: Are you doing enough?
How to Leave Guilt Behind
1. Avoid Comparison
It’s only human to compare ourselves to others, and parenting is no different, but comparing your parenting style to another parent’s or your child’s situation to another child’s is pointless. If another parent makes you feel shame for “not doing enough” or you wonder why they’re getting the results you’re not getting with your own child, then you set yourself up for disappointment and resentment. Instead, focus on the positives. What do you love about your child? What are they able to do? What do they love doing? What makes them unique? How would your life be impacted for the worse without them?
2. Set Small Goals
When you set goals for your child that are above their developmental level, both of you will inevitably end up frustrated. Setting small, achievable goals as you move along is the best way to promote your child’s growth, learning, and development. The RDI® program is based on knowing when your child is ready for the next step – and only then, guiding them to it.
3. Do the Therapies or Programs That are the Right Fit for Your Child and Your Family
There are so many therapies for autism out there, it can feel overwhelming to know which ones to choose. And it’s awful to worry that you might not be making the right choice for your child. If you know someone whose child is moving faster under a different type of therapy, you might wonder: Did I make the wrong choice? Would something else be better for my child? If you’re unsure about the program you’ve chosen, just ask yourself: Is my child happy? Are they moving at a pace that they’re comfortable with and that is working for them? Are we doing well as a family? Although one therapy might work for someone else, it might not be the best fit for you, your child, and your family.
4. Encourage Free Time
Through the RDI® program, you can help your child grow, learn and develop a little each day with everyday activities – both planned and unplanned. Just about any activity – playing with toys, reading a book, arts and crafts, making a sandwich together, tidying up, going on a walk, visiting friends, and more – can be used to apply RDI® concepts. But that’s not to say every hour should be dedicated to learning. Your child learns and develops from planned activities, but with a balance of free time, space is given for them to naturally develop the motivation to learn – and they will grow to look at you as a guide, not as a teacher who constantly plans activities and presses for mistake-free responses.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
RDI® is not a therapy. The program was designed to give parents the room to make an emotional connection with their child. The relationship between parent and child is put first. That doesn’t mean that learning and development don’t happen, just that it happens at the child’s pace. When you guide your child, but also give them the space they need to want to learn on their own, you set them up for growth. When you slow down, you speed up.
Want to Learn More?
Whether you’re new to the autism community or you’ve been looking for answers for years, the RDI® Online Learning Community for Parents can give you the resources you need. A membership gives you access to our forums, where you can get information, connection, and support from other autism parents and adults on the spectrum. You’ll also get access to exclusive research, webinars, articles and more from our Certified RDI® Professionals.
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