5 min read
Having become a mother myself recently, it has become apparent to me how much the “parenting guilt” comes into play, oh so quickly. Am I doing this right? How do I make sure they are ok? How do I find the time? What if I’m doing this wrong?
Every mother (and father!) at some point has these second thoughts. Recently, Serena Williams missed out on her baby Olimpya’s first steps, which led to self-doubts and guilt about “being a good mother.”
Comparisons, social media, books, blogs, friends, family, NCT, schools, health visitors, etc. are all giving information, sharing opinions, giving advice.
When it comes to speech and language it is no different. Communication is key to most things, and therefore it is often a huge point of contention and comparison when it’s not going as planned.
Unlike things like handwriting skills, eating habits, and sleeping patterns which are often unseen and go unnoticed by many, talking is front and center. It’s hard to hide and is very noticable.
When communication is not coming together how we expect, it seems to be very public and everyone seems to have something to say.
As a mother and a speech therapist, I am experiencing “the guilt” myself,especially as everyone expects the child of a therapist to be an early talker. What I am learning is that all that pressure is NOT helpful and can even be harmful.
So, I thought I’d share what I have learned in the hope that it might help you know that you are not alone and most mothers experience, “The Guilt!”
If you have that niggly feeling in your tummy at the end of the day, thinking things like “I didn’t speak enough to my child today,” or “I didn’t play with my child enough today.” I can tell you there are many, many other mothers thinking exactly the same thing.
We don’t get it right all the time, but I can tell you, you have everything you need already to support your child’s communication. You do not need to have a degree in Speech and Language or Child Development in order to support your child’s communication needs.
Communication is complicated and impacted by so many factors and each child is different. Some children develop communication slower than others, just as some children find math harder to learn than others. Your parenting alone will not be the only cause of communication difficulties, but it will impact and we can make the most of that impact if we are intentional about it.
You are the most important person in your child’s life. Even though some children do need intensive direct intervention with a speech therapist, they love you the most, they trust you the most, and they are with you the most. Therefore, you and your behaviour can be the most impactful. This is why we, as speech therapists, will often ask YOU to do the therapy. Not because we are lazy or too busy to do it ourselves, but instead because we know that the help will be most impactful coming from you, their parent.
There isn’t a quick and magic fix to communication. There is also not a mysterious, complicated set of unimaginable and miraculous activities that us therapists keep secret from the rest of the world that will unlock communication. Most of the time, the best answers are the simple ones. It might be underwhelming, but talking more, listening more, and playing more with your child, everyday, for the next few years, will have a bigger impact than you can truly imagine.
Rome was not built in a day and neither will be your child’s communication. If I ask you . . . if you were to start learning a new language today . . . let’s say . . . Russian, how long would you say it would take to become fluent? Probably a considerable length of time.
If we were then trying to become fluent within a year, we would definitely need to practice everyday for a good amount of time with someone who could model the language for us, help us with our vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar and to help us fix our mistakes.
Well for our children, picking up our language and learning to talk is just as complex, and they need an equal amount of daily support over a long period of time.
Family, friends, parents, mums at the gate . . . they may all have something to say, some helpful, some not so much. Choose what to take on and what to let go of.
You do not need to go this alone. Speech and Language therapists, GPs, Health Visitors, School staff, and Family center workers are all people who are trained to listen and support you and your family. They can give advice, make appropriate referrals, and help you find the right information.
If you are going to make a start, start small, with just 5 minutes a day. It’s simple, but not easy. We all live super busy lives with lots going on. So just start with 5 minutes where you turn off the TV, put away your phone, get down on the floor with your child, and play with them doing an activity they are interested in. That could be playing a board game, rolling cars, hitting spoons on a pan, popping bubbles, reading a book, making mud pies, etc.
Before your child will talk, they will need to learn to listen, before they can listen they need to learn to give the speaker their attention. All these skills are developed through play and positive interaction opportunities. Playing with another person who is supporting them, following their lead, modelling language, engaging in conversation (however simple), and who is giving the child their full attention creates a great platform for communication to develop.
If your child is 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years. It’s never too late to create positive communication opportunities for your child. Do not let “the guilt” hold you back from starting.
You can book in 5 minutes to play this afternoon, you can start looking at a book before bedtime, you can give the Health Visitor a call, attend a Speech and Language drop in, you can play “guess the animal” in the car, or you could download a speech and language app like “Speech Blubs.” Have a think and have a go.
With communication, the earlier the better. Therefore, even though you do not need to feel guilty about not starting yet . . . don’t wait another day . . . because often the earlier the intervention the greater the outcome.
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