Having a challenged kid is like riding the carousel: it never stops turning. You have a million things on your table, doctor appointments, scheduling therapies, running around different rehabilitation centers trying to find the perfect therapist for your child.
In the middle of all of this, you tend to forget that your child is your child. You treat them like a machine that is broken and you need to fix it, after all, it’s your job to make things perfect for them. It’s your job as a parent to find a solution to their problems. So you get sucked into this never-ending whirlpool, and you forget your own child. You forget to enjoy your time with your child.
So here are ten things I did with my Tala to break the cycle of the routine.
Take a day off from all the therapies and your work, and spend it with her. You can spend this day in whichever way you like. Some days I decide that we will snuggle in bed and watch TV all day, and let her eat whatever she likes. Other days I take her out to the mall, and buy her a nice toy, and sit in the sun, or take her on a play date with her cousins or my friends’ kids.
You know what your child will enjoy, so do it. It can be anything, this day, there’s no right or wrong, there aren’t any instructions, no therapy. It’s just you and her.
You have no idea how this day will make a difference in her attitude; it will make a difference in the way she responds to therapy the next day. Their brain needs to quiet down from all the pressure they go through, in order to process all the information we feed it every day.
Make bath time a lot of fun. If your child likes to take a bath, take this opportunity to make something fun out of it. You can bring bath colors and just splash them around in the bathtub. You can use food coloring if you don’t have access to both colors.
You can get plastic cups and containers and fill them with water and act like it’s a waterfall. Be creative. Put on a swimsuit and join them. Make your child feels that you are engaged in any fun activity other than driving them from and to therapy.
Go for a walk -with the stroller if your child can’t walk. Talk about what you see; sing together.
Tala doesn’t talk, but I talk to her all the time. I try to use gestures so she can imitate me.
If she’s a girl, take her to the hairdresser with you. I know you might think that people will stare, and what if the hairdresser doesn’t have a chair equipped to help her sit. I don’t care. Take your stroller or whatever seat she likes, and go. Don’t care about people who stare. Your child is a million times more important than those people staring.
If he’s a boy take him to a soccer game, or take him to get a haircut also, why not?
Find what is suitable for your child; I’m just giving you ideas. The whole point is to make your child feel that they’re part of your normal day and that they’re part of the community in which we’re living. They go to the same places like anyone else. They’re not outcasts.
Cook together. The kitchen is one of the most fun places for children. When Tala couldn’t hold herself up to sit and help in the kitchen, I used to put her in a square-shaped box filled with pillows to make sure she’s supported from all sides. Have them help with anything, even if you don’t need it. Give them bread to cut with their hands, and act like you’re putting it in a plate to make a salad. Give them vegetables and fruits, and let them explore. Give them cake batter, and ask them to mix it together with their hands. These activities help sensory development as well and will give your child self-confidence and reinforce the idea that they’re not useless.
Do laundry together. Seat your child next to the washing machine. Let them pull out the clean clothes, and put in the dirty ones. Then help them press the button to start the washing machine. You can even play together with some soap and softener.
Eat mangoes together. Why did I choose mangoes? A- because I just love mangoes; B- it’s so messy and fun.
Put your child in a plastic bathtub, and give them a couple of peeled mangoes and go crazy. Do that before giving them a shower, of course.
Do grocery shopping together. Put them in the stroller and go. The lights and colors in the supermarket are fun for children. The smell of the bakery; the sound of the cash register. All of this will capture your child’s attention and will make them happy.
Go to the beach. If you have access to a place with a beach, then go. Spend time with your child playing in the sand and swimming. This alone is therapeutic for your child. It will help develop their sensory abilities and help with motor skills. Swimming will help their muscles to move better.
Have story time before you go to bed. After a long day of therapy I know that you’re beat and just want to sleep, but take five minutes to read a story for your child. These last five minutes will create a sense of closeness between the both of you.
All of these activities can be done with your child, even if they can’t sit upright. You can still do it while they’re lying on their back. I’m saying this because I’ve done that with Tala at a point in her life. She used to lie on her back for a very long time, unable to move her arms; unable to look around. I used to hold the laundry for her and place it in her hands. I used to mash the mangoes and put little spoonfuls in her mouth. Believe me, you are a mother, and mothers always find a way to make it work.
I know you might feel that it’s impossible, or that your child’s disability is so severe they won’t feel what you’re doing. But I guarantee you, your child will feel the love in your voice even if they don’t understand a word of the story you’re telling them. They will feel the tenderness of your hands when you hold them, even if they don’t realize that this is taking a shower. Your child will feel safe and happy with you, even if you’re just holding them in your arms and lying on the couch.