If it’s not one, it’s the other

A wise woman once told me: Children often find a way to balance out the dynamic in a household.

Meaning, I’m pretty much screwed if I think my children are going to grow out of “phases” and all will be magically become unicorns and rainbows.

terrible-twos

The past three years (with our now 4.5-year-old) have been — what I consider to be — very difficult and trying on our patience. Recently, we started to see huge improvements with his behaviors, communication skills and comprehension (with some help from occupational and behavioral therapy, of course). And now our 2.5-year-old is picking up the slack.

Sure we can blame it on the “two’s” and parts of it probably is his age, but it’s clear there is more to it. The social interactions and the dynamic of our house has been so used to the increased behaviors, now that one child is improving in a positive way, the other (and sometimes others, in our case) is naturally picking up the lost behaviors or trying to find that previous balance to compensate – basically in an attempt to create the balance everyone has been so accustomed to for so long.

It’s often called a dance in child development — and there’s a dance in every relationship… In a family unit, between mother and child, between father and child or mother and father. The “dancers” test their boundaries, limits, steps and plan their next move to figure out how to coexist with each other. Sometimes it’s calculated, other times it’s not. With our two-year-old, it’s obviously less calculated and more of a growth and balancing act because he’s two. In the end, everything turns out fine, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re living it. It’s just like most things in parenting. Just when you think you have things figured out, there’s something or someone there to let you know that there’s more work to be done.

In this case, it’s a toddler.

Kids and accepting others

While I haven’t talked about it a whole lot here, I’ve briefly touched on the fact that my 4-year-old has a neurological disorder called Sensory Processing Disorder.

In short, his little body seeks out input in various ways to calm his senses so that he can function and carry out his day-to-day, sometimes minute-by-minute activities. Luckily, he’s thriving in an amazing school environment that provides various sensory activities through play, learning and peer interaction – he’s also surrounded by amazing teachers, proactive therapists and me for a mom (I’m his biggest advocate and Montessori trained).

Never mind the guessing game and constant learning process my husband and I brave on a daily basis… Sometimes the hardest part of all of this is hearing and seeing how people – especially his peers — react negatively to the little things.

Kids voice what they are thinking… I too encourage my kids to have a voice. What I also encourage is asking questions. I encourage them to inquire about something they don’t understand before making a judgment or saying something that could hurt someone else’s feelings. Or in this case, my 4-year-old child who doesn’t completely understand what he needs or why he needs certain things to make his body feel better.

Do my kids hurt others people’s feelings? Absolutely. They are kids. But I keep encouraging the questions and make it a point to talk about feelings, emotions and acceptance of others. Eventually it will sink it, right?
I know my 4-year-old is looking for acceptance from his friends, all 4-year-olds do. I also know how easily his feelings are hurt and how he feels when he deals with those emotions.

While things will change and improve over time, the fact that my 4-year-old enjoys the tightness (pressure input) and security (transition assistance) from sitting in a baby carrier while we walk into school will probably not go away anytime soon. Or that he needs a compression shirt or weighted vest during circle time in the mornings (pressure input) and that he needs his arms and legs brushed when he gets out of school (to calm his overwhelmed senses). A lot of what he needs is disguised as play, chores and short breaks, but there are a few things that make other children – and sometimes adults – raise an eyebrow.

So I say, just ask.

Most parents I know have no problem answering questions about their child (with or without SPD) to diffuse a potentially hurtful situation.

Here are some simple things you can say to your child to encourage acceptance in different situations and to help with valuing other people’s feelings.

  • If something is different to you, ask someone (a parent, teacher, etc.) to help you understand it.
  • If someone is doing something you don’t do or don’t understand, it’s okay to ask about it.
  • And finally… if you are a parent and your child keeps coming home with stories about a specific child, ask the teacher or the child’s parent to help you better understand the situation for yourself — and so you can potentially talk to your child about it.

What do you do with your kids to encourage acceptance of others?


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