Having a child with an additional need often means we have to view life in a new way.

Today, we are looking through the round window … or maybe not?

Many of us can remember the BBC Play School programme for pre-school children which ran from 1964 until 1988. Or maybe if we’re too young to remember Play School we might remember Tikkabilla which launched in 2002. A popular part of these shows involved looking through a window – round, square or arched – to watch something exciting happening in the real world.

Would we have had a different view, if we’d looked through a different window? Would we have seen the subject, whatever it was, from another angle? Might the people we saw through the square window have been making something different if we’d looked through the round window? Did the position from which we looked alter what we saw? Did you prefer ‘round’, ‘square’ or ‘arched’?

Much has been written in recent years about ‘reframing our thinking’. It seems that a ‘frame’ can be interpreted as the way we understand a situation or, more literally, the bit of the picture we are looking at through the ‘frame’ in front of us. The idea behind this is that the way we view something may alter our reaction to it, and therefore alter the way we respond to it.

We’ve been wondering how ‘reframing’ might be relevant to our thinking in parenting our additional needs children. When our child is born, or is later diagnosed, with an additional need, our view of life changes. The expectations and dreams we had before are now different. We have thought of a few examples of how we can reframe our outlooks. Perhaps you can think of some more and let us know.

1. Good health

What is ‘good’? Getting through the winter without having to take much time off work for colds and tummy bugs, or a whole week free from hospital appointments?

Reframed: The one-to-one parenting time we will have with our child in hospital; the lovely people we know now whom we would never have met; the parent time we have alone with another of our children who is off school with a cold.

2. Clean and tidy house

Spotlessly clean or comfortably cluttered? Do bathrooms get cleaned twice a week or just as and when we remember? Have we run out of vacuum cleaner bags again, and it has taken us three weeks to notice?

Reframed: If we have the time, and it makes us feel good, then we should go for it! If our child needs clean air for medical reasons, then we do what we must. We need to remember, though, not to compare ourselves with other families who may not have our time constraints. When life is busy, it can be helpful to remember that time is the best thing to spend on our children.

3. What food to eat when

Healthy breakfasts are a very good idea, and everyone sitting down at the table together every evening is lovely. Chocolate cake for breakfast is not ideal, but when the ideal isn’t possible, and the slightly-better-than-the-most-unhealthy-option isn’t possible either, then we have to make a choice.

Reframed: We are not perfect when it comes to meals, but we are still doing our best and our best is good enough. It can be fun to get everyone involved in whatever food our family members produce! A day when everyone has something they can/will eat can be a good day.

Yes, our expectations have changed. Maybe before our additional needs child was born, or diagnosed, we were looking through the ‘round’ window, or the ‘square’ window, but the way we see it, although round or square are good, ‘arched‘ is so much more interesting!

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