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How to Avoid Comparing Your Child with Special Needs to Other Children

How to Avoid Comparing Your Child with Special Needs to Other Children

While it’s normal to sometimes compare your child to others, it’s important to try to limit it. Here’s what you can do.

Social media has given us a bird’s eye view into everyone’s life, with parents posting about their kids’ achievements, milestones, celebrations, and more. For any parent, the instinct to compare their children to others can be hard to resist. And for a parent of a child with special needs, it can bring another level of stress and anxiety into the fold.

“Comparison is natural and learning not to compare your child with a disability to others takes effort, but it will get easier with practice and time,” explains Melanie Musson, with LifeInsurancePost.com. Musson is also the parent of a child with special needs. “While you’ll always see differences between your child and their typical peers, you can train your mind not to focus on that.”

Not sure where to start? Follow these simple steps to help you get off the comparison train.

Realize it is normal to compare your child to others.

All parents compare their kids to other children from time to time, so it isn’t something to feel guilty about. Engaging in the behavior doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, so give yourself a break, points out Joy Gandell, a parenting, critical life skills, and learning coach.

Admit it’s a waste of time.

Comparing two different people to one another will only lead to unhappiness, negativity, and a whole lot of stress. As parents in general, you should always keep this in mind. Once you remind yourself of this, you’ll soon find yourself doing it less often and eventually stop altogether, notes Jessica Robinson of The Speaking Polymath.

Look at the positive.

All the magic lies in our perception, Robinson says. “If you can see the positive traits in your child, you’ll naturally stop comparing him/her with anyone. So, you should try to look for at least one new positive trait in your child on a daily basis.”

Celebrate your child with special needs' uniqueness.

Although it can be hard not to think about the things your child can’t do, try to focus on their strengths and what makes them unique, recommends Marissa Labuz, founder of TeachingLittles.com and a pediatric occupational therapist who works with children with special needs. “Their uniqueness is what will set them apart as they get older, and they may even have special abilities or talents that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Verbalize your child's strengths.

There is a tendency to discuss weaknesses as those things are thought about, talked about, written, printed, and talked about again in many meetings. Let’s do the same thing with strengths, says Janelle Vargo, Director of Education for Wonder Media, an animation production company that creates content to educate children in an entertaining and positive way. If there aren’t a lot of strengths listed or required in your meetings, you’ll have to do this part on your own. And don’t be afraid to remind teachers, administrators, therapists, and doctors of all of the wonderful things your child has accomplished throughout the year.

It can also be helpful to have your child focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities, especially when they’re feeling discouraged by something. For 6 steps to help your child (and you!) focus on their abilities, visit nymetroparents.com/abilities.

See the reality.

Remind yourself that what you see from other children is often a highlight reel much like what we see on social media, says Kathy Heath, an autism awareness advocate behind TheAutismEdit.com and mom of three children, including one on the autism spectrum. Remember, no child is perfect, and no parent has it easy.

Join a good support group.

Find fellow parents of kids with special needs. They’ll understand your struggles and help you feel like you’re not alone, Musson says.


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