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Perfectly Unperfect: Realistic Resolutions for Parents of Complex Learners

You did it. You watched the ball drop (or fell asleep). You rang in the New Year with family and friends or your cat and Netflix. You took stock of the past year and wrote down New Year’s resolutions in a spreadsheet or on the back of a napkin. And now you’re ready! This is your year. You’re going to crush it in 2019!

Except that a week into your promise to eat healthy, there were donuts at work and you had a double-glazed, chocolate frosted, cream-filled breakfast instead of the oatmeal you brought.

Or your resolve to reduce your child’s screen time and find alternate activities he can do falls apart when you come home exhausted from work and let him have pizza for dinner in front of the X-box.

The New Year, for all its sense of renewal and fresh starts, can actually be a set up for people who long for perfection and find they often fall short. And if you have a child with complex learning and attention issues, your resolutions and struggle to create perfection (or even a sense of “normalcy”) is constantly at bay with the realities of his needs and difficulties.

So instead of the usual resolutions, embrace the idea that life is perfectly unperfect! And think about the following realistic resolutions that might help 2019 be a little better for you, your child, and your family:

1)    Keep a Check on Self-Esteem

As a parent of a special needs child, your self-esteem can get bruised when you see your child’s academic and emotional delays, social difficulties and behavioral challenges in comparison to “typically” developing children. When our children do not meet developmental and academic markers on time or display atypical and difficult behaviors, we may personalize this as poor parenting skills when it is simply not true. Constant self-scrutinization of your parenting skills can carry over a negative self-image into additional aspects of your life, and can also trickle down to your special needs child and other family members. For starters, don’t apologize for your Complex Learner. You know you’re doing the best you can, and your child is doing his best, too. Remind yourself of this and consider the positive and not always the negative parts of you, your parenting and your child. You are a superhero for all the tall buildings you climb and bad guys you battle on behalf of your child! No one is perfect but you are perfectly unperfect!

2)    Recharge – Regularly

You are not the Energizer Bunny! Take a break, refuel, and give yourself some respite and care. Only you know what this means for you. Dig deep to figure out what might really help. Maybe it’s not really Words with Friends or binge-watching NCIS or Ben and Jerry’s (or maybe it is!). Do you secretly want to learn kickboxing or wood carving? Is it time for a weekend away with your spouse, friends, or just you? Do you want to go out to eat somewhere special, go for a hike, learn ballroom dancing? Maybe you need more time with friends, a night on the town, a silent retreat – whatever will give you the ability to find relaxation, fun and maybe even a different perspective on your life – resolve to do it!

3)    Organize One Thing

Don’t make a long To Do List that overwhelms you and lends itself to be lost (accidentally on purpose!). Pick one thing – a closet, your child’s desk, a sock drawer, a spice rack. If that goes ok, maybe pick another thing. Organized spaces make living easier for all of us, especially for Complex Learners, but if it feels like climbing Mount Everest, break your organizational hopes and dreams into small, achievable tasks. Have you already color coded everything in the house? Then take some time to look through photos or files for some inspiration or new ideas.

4)    Read a Good Book

Read a book about your child’s diagnoses or about strategies for behavior problems or on cultivating gratitude and mindfulness. There’s always a chance to learn something new that will help you in your journey. Or, if you feel all you do is read books about these topics, read something just for fun! Reading is a gift you can give yourself and in turn, it role models lifelong reading for your child. Now that’s a resolution with a lot of impact!

Maybe there are other resolutions that really make a difference for parents of Complex Learners. Let us know what they are and ways you work to keep them going past January!

And here’s to 2019 bringing the best to you and your family!

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