We are all creatures of habit. There’s no denying it. We get into routines in our jobs, our marriage, our friendships, and in our families – especially when we have a child with autism or other special needs. In fact, our special kids often flat-out demand those routines, don’t they?
The routines they demand seem to give them a sense of security and predictability in their otherwise cluttered, chaotic lives. But those same routines can also become a limiting factor in their worlds too. Those routines can limit our kids to always needing the same exact variables day in and day out, and that is never going to be possible to maintain in the long-run.
As much as we parents want to try and provide the exact structure and controlled environment that our kids crave, there’s this one little thing called “Life” that will always get in our way.
So I want to propose to you that instead of trying to control every aspect of the world around our kids, maybe we should be teaching them that change is actually a good thing. It’s inevitable, so they might as well learn from the ones they love and trust the most – US!
I know you may be thinking “easier said than done”, and I’m not trying to suggest this will be an easy concept to implement. However, once your kids start learning that change is okay and that they can handle it and should actually embrace it – life will get much easier and more enjoyable for everyone in the family.
I’ve found the best way to handle this situation with my son is to always have a few new inexpensive toys or books hidden in my closet. About once or twice a month, I will instigate something not going as planned – on purpose – just so I can teach him about change. I might do something like, “I know you want to watch that one movie of yours over again, but tonight I’m going to pick a movie instead.” And when he starts to protest, I say, “but if you can accept that without getting upset, then you might get a little surprise.”
Well, he always wants to know what the surprise is, so he usually accepts the change without an issue. I don’t always have to give him a prize either. I might allow him to do something else that he wants to do if he accepts the change I’m throwing his way. The point is that I always put a positive spin on it so that he can understand that change is not that big a deal and his world won’t come crashing down if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Most of the time, this works great, because I’ve helped my son to change the way he thinks about things. And as the great Norman Peale alluded to at the beginning of this article, that small change in my son’s thoughts is allowing a big change in his world, overall.
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