Avoiding the Comparison Trap
I’ve heard it said on more than one occasion: “Their brother was already walking by now…” or “Little Sally down the street started rolling, and she is 2 months younger than my baby!” Oh, if I could give these parents a set of blinders.
Your child’s journey may be very unique. There could be a diagnosis where delays are expected. Perhaps there are many questions regarding your child’s development with very few clear answers available, and the delays only reinforce your concerns. It’s possible that your child is typical but you have a big family with lots of cousins whose same age children are doing more than your child. Whatever situation you find yourself in as a parent, one of the biggest things I’d encourage you to do is to LOVE and ENJOY this season of life for everything it has to offer. That’s not to say that your concerns aren’t valid. In fact, those concerns may drive you to seek a second opinion or the help of a therapist. But don’t lose the joy of being a parent in the process. Don’t forsake these precious moments with your child by comparing them to those around.
Another important point is that developmental tests and the checklists at each well visit are TOOLS. They are not designed to label your child. Instead, they help doctors and therapists assess where your child currently is in different areas of their development. They let us and YOU know your child better: what their strengths are and areas of success, what their weaknesses are and areas to ask about, and what areas might your child need skilled help to meet their next developmental milestone. For example, your child could have received a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy or Autism. This diagnosis does not put your child in a box. It does not define who your child is as a person. It simply provides insight into ways we can anticipate upcoming challenges and partner together to overcome them.
Don’t spend so much time looking laterally that you miss the incredible things your child is doing in front of you. One of the ways a child’s confidence is developed is through the way their parents see them. You are their primary source of reassurance. Being a parent is hard work, and neither you nor I should waste our energy worrying about how other children are doing by comparison. Know your child’s strengths, and praise them in how they excel! Be aware of your child’s weaknesses, and help to guide them through the areas in which they struggle. Maybe they don’t have any words but are excellent at making eye contact. Tell them every day how much you love their sparkling eyes! Perhaps they can’t walk. What an opportunity to let them know how good they make their pink wheelchair look! I am confident that there are numerous things about your child worth celebrating! Don’t hold back!
It is always important to be realistic and intentional about areas where they need more support and help. Moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers: I promise you these days with your little one are FLEETING, and we cannot get a single minute back. Even though things could be very different than you imagined, make the most of every moment. Don’t fall prey to comparison. It is the ultimate thief of joy.
Ashley Huffstuttler is a Physical Therapist in our Hand In Hand Early Intervention Program. If you would like more information about our Early Intervention services for children ages birth to three years old, please contact Jessica Letson at 205-944-3939.