I just read an article called “Child’s Development Isn’t Linear” that you can find here. Although it is geared toward school readiness it has a lot of truth for any parent and especially for parents whose children had a hard start in life. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Children cannot be pushed, hurried, practiced or tutored along developmental stages,” Wolfe says. “Normal growth just needs time. Outside pressures cause a child to spin out of control.”
This is so, true, isn’t it? And yet, how much time, money and effort is spent pushing, hurrying, practicing or tutoring skills that we think our children should have NOW? True for typical parenting experiences and probably even more true for parents whose children whose children spent time in less than optimal care. Especially true for parents who don’t have information about what we call a child’s “real age” as opposed to their “chronological age”. (we’re going to talk a lot more about this in an upcoming webinar)
What’s worse is that all the work parents often put into getting their child “caught up” can cause even more of a problem and even bigger gaps in development! When expectations are out of line with reality, the resulting stress on both parent and child can create unintended negative behaviors and reactions (in both child and adult!) Pretty soon, the family is caught in a cycle of stress, negativity and reactive behaviors that are so far removed from the initial issue of misguided expectations that it’s hard for the average parent to make the connection between pushing too hard and the crummy interactions and behaviors they now have in their family.
So, what to do? First, get knowledgeable about what are realistic expectations for your child’s development. Don’t only focus on what’s typical for their age, but think about your individual child’s strengths, weaknesses and any extenuating circumstances. For families adopting children with hard starts in life, it’s even more important to understand how those early months or years might be affecting them now. And finally, take a deep breath and realize that parenting is not a race… it’s a process.