Finding Meaning in Small Successes
“Make time to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or how small.” – Unknown
During this unprecedented time, it can be hard to feel like anything is going right. It can be overwhelming to think of all of the things that need to get done in the day. It can be hard to check off all the boxes, for both you and your child.
Even when it doesn’t seem like anything productive has been accomplished today, I can guarantee that your child is still learning and growing, without you even knowing.
Let’s walk through what a typical day might look like for most of us and see if we can find some small successes in it.
You wake up. Your child is awake and excited to take on the world. You get ready for the day- get dressed, brush your teeth, make breakfast, help your child get dressed and ready for the day. Then it’s time for virtual classes! You do your best to help them get through their classes and get the work done. Maybe everything didn’t get finished, but you made a dent in it. Okay. Time for lunch. You make the meal while your child watches their favorite show or plays their favorite game. A sister or brother joins in on the game, or maybe an imaginary friend, and now they’re playing together. That’s amazing! Once everyone has had lunch, you clean up the plates, you have your child help you clean up the mess so you can move on to your next activity. Maybe you see an activity online that your child might enjoy, and you have all the materials! Great! And maybe it doesn’t look like the sample craft, but your child had so much fun trying something new! Before dinner, you and your whole family might go for a walk. So nice to get in some quality family time! You have dinner as a family, maybe your child wasn’t behaving the best, but it’s the end of the day and almost time for bed. You go through the motions of your nightly routine – bath, brush teeth, put on pajamas, read a story, etc. It may take some extra time, but your child finally falls asleep. While this might not be part of your routine every day, this seems typical, right? Now let’s see exactly how many small successes occurred today!
As occupational therapists, the things we work on fall into seven different categories. Whether you are helping your child to do them, or modeling them by doing them yourself, you are teaching your child daily. Let’s look again and see what we accomplished:
Activities of daily living (ADLs) – ADLs are the things we must do every day in terms of our self-care. Some examples of this are taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed in the morning. While your child may not be able to do those things on their own yet, they can learn by seeing you doing those things for yourself. When your child sees you get ready in the morning, and helps you get themselves ready, you are working on valuable ADL skills.
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) – IADLs are things you do in your daily routine that are a little more complex than basic self-care. Some examples of this are managing medications, taking care of others, driving, and cleaning the house as well as other chores. When you have your child help you clean up their lunch plates, they are working on IADL skills all while helping you out. Win-win, right?
Rest and sleep– This one may seem kind of self-explanatory. Rest and sleep include your bedtime routine, falling asleep, and staying asleep. By doing your best to keep the same nighttime routine for your child, you are helping them succeed in this category!
Education– Virtual school. This is a great struggle for many families nowadays, and it doesn’t always go as planned. But if you were able to get your kids on task to do their work for even a few minutes, that’s a win and you should pat yourself on the back. Kids don’t spend the entirety of their school day doing their work, so that shouldn’t be an expectation at home. Kids are learning by doing so many different activities, besides learning words for spelling tests and doing math problems.
Work– Clearly, your child doesn’t work a 9-5 job. The main “job” your child has is to play! This is how they learn and build the skills they need to be successful in the future. When your children are playing a game, and when you do your craft with your child, you are building the play skills they need to succeed!
Play– This goes along with what we just talked about, since a child’s job is to play. To help your child build their play skills, you can help them learn and participate in new play experiences. A fun new craft isn’t just great because it gives you something to do with your child – you introduced them to a new way to play!
Leisure- Leisure relates to skills that you want to do when you have the time, your hobbies. Even when your child is watching their favorite show, they are succeeding in this category. It’s important to build downtime into your daily schedule. It’s okay to not be moving all the time.
Social participation– This is so important! When your child is in the virtual classroom, or when your children are playing together, or when you took your family walk; these things help build your child’s social participation skills. Even if they can’t have in-person playdates right now, there are still tons of ways to improve social participation.
So when you look at it, you have accomplished a lot doing your daily routine! Maybe it didn’t turn out as planned, maybe you didn’t get as much done as you would have liked, but there are successes you can celebrate every day. If you helped your child to do these things, or modeled them yourself, you are helping your child build important skills – skills that may not seem all that important right now – but will make all of the difference in the long run.
You are doing it, and you are amazing, and I know your child appreciates all that you do, even if they don’t always say it.