How Much To Do and How Much To Be; the importance of downtime for kids with special needs and otherwise

In my parent coaching practice in Dallas, I am often confronted by moms who are struggling to find the balance with their kids with special needs. “I don’t know how much to enrich her and how much to just be with her,” is a common concern and struggle for such parents.  Most kids with special needs be it learning differences or more, it seems are already being enriched through various therapies, after school activities and perhaps even at school. What kids need most, all kids in fact, is some downtime – be it time to be with their thoughts, to play, or to connect with their parents in meaningful ways. We all have both physical and emotional needs and as parents we need to be meeting both for our kids, but as they get older, we tend to do more and be-with less. When babies are first born we tend to focus on both their physical needs (diaper changes, feeding) and their emotional needs (holding, soothing, rocking). As they get older and we together engage in very hurried lives we naturally shift into more of the physical needs – driving them from here to there, feeding them, bathing them, etc. and the emotional needs, the being-with, inevitably gets neglected. I invite my parent clients to refocus on meeting their children’s emotional needs and to practice more being-with as opposed to simply doing-for. Gloria DeGaetano, educator, author and founder of the Parent Coaching Institute in Seattle, identifies basic but essential needs for all human beings that when not met, she says, “keep us from blossoming into the rich, full individuals we are meant to be”. A loving bond between parent and child is one such vital need for healthy emotional development. As kids become older and physically larger we may no longer rock them or hold them as often as we once did, but such nurturing experiences are still crucial in supporting their social and emotional development and their capacity for empathy and emotion regulation. Build in time for simply being-with your child and create opportunities for bonding and nurturing through play, touch, or just being together in meaningful and emotionally enriching ways.

Find what works for you and your family and as always…find the balance!

 - Galit Birk, PhD

Galit Birk, PhD is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® and Owner of CORE Parent Coaching based in Dallas, Texas. She writes regularly for the CORE blog and guest blogs for Dallas Child Magazine’s various blog sites. This piece was written for Thrive Magazine’s Thriving blog.