Resolution. A word we hear often at New Year’s. What does this mean? According to Wikipedia,
A New Year’s resolution is a commitment that a person makes to one or more lasting personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. This goal must be reached by the Next New Year. Keep in mind that this is a goal, not a wish and should be something that you as a person could strive for.
A New Year’s Resolution is generally a goal someone sets out to accomplish in the coming year. Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible. A key element to a New Year’s Resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year, and new beginnings. People committing themselves to a new year’s resolution plan to do so for the whole following year.
This is what “resolution” means to adults. What does it mean to a child? I asked my children if they could think about a resolution for the New Year. One said, “I’m still thinking.” Another said, “I want more toys,” and the third had no response. This concept is foreign to children under the age of eight or so, who have typically not yet developed abstract thinking and a sense of themselves apart from other people. While children can develop empathy at a young age, often what they think of first is something that will benefit themselves, not others. Gentle reminders of others’ experiences, volunteer opportunities (e.g. at a Food Bank), and/or sponsoring a child are some examples of ways to encourage kids to have an awareness of others’ needs. We have a sponsored child in India through Children International, and through an ongoing correspondence with this 10-year-old girl who lives in extreme poverty, my kids have gained some understanding of how fortunate they truly are. This is a work in progress.
Furthermore, the idea of changing something about oneself or striving to change a bad habit takes some time to develop in children. I gave them the example of, “I want to do my best to get along with my sisters,” and they looked at me like I had spoken a foreign language.
For parents of sensory kids, we can only hope and expect that our kids will grow and learn new ways of approaching the world and the things that frighten them. Often these changes are outside of their awareness. However, we can also expect that the pace of change will be much slower than we might want, and that can often be frustrating. Behaviors you thought had changed may reappear, only to remind you that your child does, indeed, have unique struggles and challenges. For example, we went to a 4D movie (Polar Express) over the holiday break – you know, the kind that has actual rain, snow, and wind, and hydraulic motion under your seat. I thought to myself, surely my girls have matured enough to “weather” this type of movie. When the movie began and the train started blowing the whistle (granted, it was extremely loud) and shaking the seats, one of my daughters began to shake and cry, and my husband had to carry her out of the theater. I felt selfish for being disappointed, but then realized how disappointed she must feel, and that she might even feel a sense of inadequacy. We tried to console her by normalizing that the movie was quite loud, and having rain and wind come out of nowhere can be frightening. It took her several minutes to calm down.
And this brings me to my resolution: to be more patient. Change will come slowly, regressions will happen, and this is just how it’s going to be. I can easily get ahead of myself and imagine everything going smoothly, but eventually we encounter several bumps in the road, and we as parents have to learn to “weather” these challenges, without imposing our own needs on our children. So, while we learn to accept the old behaviors, we are simultaneously learning new ways of coping with our own struggles to parent and address our children’s difficulties with love and patience.
Happy New Year!