It’s January, which means it’s the time of year when many are starting out their New Year’s resolutions, or when others may be looking back and reflecting on the past year. If you’re one of the latter, you may be thinking back on what all your child with special needs has accomplished in 2021 and what they will work on this upcoming year. As you reflect, it’s important to be thankful for all the achievements your child has made, no matter how big or small they may seem. We believe every milestone is worth celebrating. Appreciating and acknowledging every achievement your child makes can be so helpful for both you and your child. As the parent, celebrating your child’s successes is a reminder that your child is making strides and can help you see the growth your child is making every day. It’s easy to get discouraged, but noting your child’s achievements can be very encouraging to you as the parent and can help you to stay optimistic as you look toward the future. For your child, accomplishing a new goal, no matter how small, is a big deal for them! It can make their day to see that others, especially mom or dad, have also taken notice of their achievement and are proud of their hard work!
Remember that you as their parent are their number one advocate. As parents, I think we sometimes underestimate the effect we have on our children, but the reality is that the way we react to our child’s accomplishments can have such a huge impact on the way they perceive themselves. Showering your child with genuine and enthusiastic praise when they accomplish something new helps them feel special. It’s also a valuable teaching moment that shows them that they have every right to be proud of themselves, and it helps them see how their hard work has paid off. While milestones may not look the way you once expected or hoped, it’s vital to focus less on what they cannot do and more on what they can do. How you celebrate your child will likely look different from one family to the next. You know your child best, of course, so it’s important to make sure you honor their achievements in a way that suits them and your family best.
Celebrating your child’s milestones can help you appreciate the moment and focus on their achievements. Many people may take for granted that a 14 year old should feed himself, but if your special needs 14 year old feeds himself for the very first time, that’s a really big deal and should absolutely be celebrated! It’s easy to fall into the trap of fixating on what your child can’t do – we’ve all been there – but try not to let that overshadow all the great things they can do and that they (and you) have worked so very hard to accomplish! As parents, we all want our child to be as independent as they can possibly be, so every step towards greater independence is a step in the right direction – celebrate those steps!