Let's say you decide this is the year to learn to drive (or knit or play a sport). Do you immediately set goals like an expert driver? Do you decide to rent a car and do a cross country run within the first few weeks? Probably not. But if you did, you would probably be very frustrated and feel like giving up as you try to accomplish this ambitious goal. And what if you kept saying to yourself "You should be doing this better! It's very important that you drive across country and your child would have been recovered already if you had done this...." (Oops! I started to mix stories!) Your unsupportive mental chatter would just probably add to your anxiety and upset and reduce your chances of doing this cross country drive.
We are constantly setting goals with our children. The beauty of the Growth Through Play System (GPS) that we use at MOA to help us understand your child better, is that it provides specific social and communication goals that focus on some of the 'missing steps' in a child's development. It's like a map, showing us all the steps along the way. That way, working on a large area like language does not feel like a trip across the country for a new driver (remember to ask us about this if you want access to this wonderful tool). We get to take it step by step. We understand exactly what to do during that step and the goal is small enough so that we can meet it and experience success relatively quickly.
As parents, we seem to have no challenge giving our children small goals, working steadily through the map of the larger goal area. Yet somehow, with ourselves, we don't take the same strategy. I know that I will set goals for myself based on what I believe is best for my children. And isn't this what we should do? Ok, I won't talk about myself, or anyone else. Let me talk about the hypothetical Well Meaning Mom . So let's take having solo play time with her child. Family isn't available. Volunteers are not yet recruited. Therapists and social services aren't adequate. After speaking to some moms and hearing what they do, Well Meaning Mom decides that she can do at least 10 hours of play-time each week. So she schedules 2 hours each day to play with her child. On the first day, WMM finds herself being distracted by thoughts of all the things she would normally be doing in this time. As she works to keep her mind focussed, the phone rang, and it was the school calling. Her other daughter is running a temperature and needs to be picked up. Before she could consider what to do, Mom hears the baby (who typically has a solid 2 hour nap) starting to cry in the other room. Then Suzie, who is now out of her room, lets WMM know that she is hungry..... WMM is down on herself for not being organized enough, present enough, whatever enough to make the play-time happen with Suzie. After a few days of not doing the full 2 hours, WMM now dreads the idea of play-time. I so identify with Well Meaning Mom!
The first thing I had to learn is that my personal goals for anything in my child's life and in the rest of my life, have to be as detailed as the goals on the Growth Through Play System (the social and communication assessment tool we use here at MOA). Before setting a big goal, (and for me, 2 hours interacting with Jaedon, with 2 other children at home was big) I needed to set some smaller goals. One of them was just working on being happy with myself, affirming and encouraging to myself, even if I amnot interacting with J the way I "should".
I had to re-figure my day out. I realized that before Zach, my 3rd baby came, I could have easily figured out 2 hours of solo play time with J. Now, that just feels impossible. So, let's start at the beginning. What about a positive, happy, energetic attitude every time I'm with my son? What about creating those delicious 60 second moments of begin present with him several times during the day? What about moving from that to being with him in his room for 30 minutes, with the door open so the others can get me if they need me? There are so many baby steps that I can take. And I will get there, one step at a time!
I don't know what it might be for you, but tell your unsupportive mental chatter to shut up...er.. I mean, be quiet (children are listening) and do what Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music suggests: Start at the very beginning. We are here to help you figure out what that starting point might be in your specific situation. Email us for a free consultation.