Naked in the hurricane. If your child’s development is full of concerns, it’s very hard to find a firm handhold. In this blog I’ll take you on my journey towards finding that handhold.
Time is your friend
When the whole world is worried about how your child is developing, it's up to you to stay calm. And I know what it's like.
My very best childhood friend is a well-known child therapist. One day I shared with her how my child had been seen by the school's support coordinator, and through a support plan could be placed into a support class at school. But in Dutch they use the word 'zorg', which translates as 'concern', instead of 'support'. My child was seen by the 'concern coordinator', had a 'concern plan', and was going to a 'concern class'. So she reacted with a heartfelt, 'so many concerns!' And I realised that I no longer had just a child, but rather a 'concern'.
Concerns are contagious
It's contagious. The worrying and the concerns. The teacher sees that something is different. With a concerned expression she refers you to a professional, who has a concerned expression. And then you end up in waiting rooms, with a concerned expression on your face. With concerning questionnaires, tests and reports. And you tuck your child into bed at night with concern in your eyes. By now the whole family, school, and circle of friends have been told. You have new friends in the world of 'concern children'.
Start worrying kiddo
I'll tell you a story. At some point I was at a physiotherapist with my child. My 6 year old child was asked to assign a grade to his own achievements. Often, care loses it's human factor, and everything needs to be measured and graded. Apparently it was of vital importance that the problems (or concerns) were also seen as such by the child. Now, my child was extremely positive about his own abilities (well done Mama!). But you know what's coming, don't you? It was a concern. Because, according to the physiotherapist: if he didn't see the problem, he would be less motivated in therapy. The solution? Make it very clear to him exactly how far behind his peers he was. In other words: you need to start worrying too, kiddo. You've been on earth for six years. Time to realise that you're not achieving the national averages when it comes to motor skills. Don't think about that birthday party this afternoon. We're here to work on you. And when you're back to being average, you can go back to your normal world.
Why it hits hard
Concerns about your child have an impact on you. An enormous impact. Because that little person is the most important part of your life. And you want them to be happy, and successful. Because their happiness is your happiness. But your happiness is also their happiness. I am convinced that we don't get to decide some of the biggest events in our lives. But we do get to decide how we respond to them. And the best part is: my child showed me the solution.
I remember days in which the entire world seemed concerned. Phone calls from school. Diagnoses which would impact the rest of his life. Poor contact with other children. And yet there was always something which took my concerns away. The joy I saw in his eyes. The love I felt radiating from him. The trust and enthusiasm for life which I saw when his eyes found mine. And I felt it – the solution was there. Because that's where there was always light. A light that contrasted fiercely with the darkness of the people around us. And I had to find a way to bring them together, since living on an uninhabited island wasn't an option.
Between fear and trust
There are constructive concerns. I call them trust. And destructive concerns. I call them fear. And there are so many fears, they're often pressurised as if in a pressure cooker, they are very contagious, and they don't get you anywhere. Your new identity becomes 'concern'. And all the consequences it brings. It seemed like that label was being nailed on, with extra strength nails. The dynamism was gone from the development. Because a concern is a concern and will always be a concern.
All colors of the rainbow
Constructive concerns are based on love and trust. Belief in growth and the power of time. Constructive concern works best in a slow cooker. I consciously selected the trusting people who surround my child. I don't allow myself to be stressed out by lists and milestones, and what he 'should' be doing. Some children are 8 years old in everything they do. Some children are 4 in some things, and 13 in others, when they're actually 8. These children are all the colours of the rainbow. I limit the number of therapies. I don't select therapies based on the way they define things, but on the way they help and invite. I ask those around to look through just one important lens. Let's offer the child an 'invitation to grow' together (and now you know how I found that important sentence for Wobbel). Just like we would offer any child.
When the storm rages, I am calm. I set my course by following the twinkle in his eyes. On a journey together. Red cheeks. Ready to color the world. What an adventure.