Every day is a choice.
To do for others or to do for myself. (Both are necessary)
To choose gratitude.
Many choices we do not have to think much about – they are habit. However there are times in life when we are faced with more significant choices that we do not know the outcome or the purpose or the reasoning. This is where building trust through faith in God’s plan day to day helps to guide our choices, especially when we face larger ones.
We made the significant, life-giving choice to have a child with Down syndrome. Each day there is a choice to make that can lead him and us to affirm that life…”now what do I do to guide this unique child to continue to be confident yet make good choices and handle academics without behavioral melt-downs? How can we help him reach his potential? How do we keep him safe?” We cannot do this alone. Being a part of a community has been crucial. We look to others in faith, in friendship and those who offer expertise that we cannot fulfill on our own. Similarly parents face this questions for all of their children, it just tends to be magnified when children have special needs.
One resource that has been especially helpful for a child with special needs is Conscious Discipline, and I have found is a best practice for all children. Our faith teaches us that it is not enough to do the right things. We can go to confession and say 100 Hail Mary’s, but if we aren’t truly sorry and trying to change, it does not matter. We have to do the right things for the right reasons. Based on the idea of love and a parent-child learning partnership, Conscious Discipline helps us develop what we term as a “Conscious Moral Conscience” in our children in order that we make good choices.
The frontal lobe of a person is not fully formed until they are twenty-five! Teacher and parent have the opportunity and responsibility to”Be the frontal lobe” for the student by providing
Reminders and visuals (It may become necessary to break down a task into visual pictures/words)
Schedules/routines (both at home and school)
A structured environment
For a parent or teacher to talk through their own decision making or problem solving process out-loud
We are taught by our faith that this part of the brain must be formed and developed. Some elements from Conscious Discipline that guide a caregiver with words to teach skills of empathy, good choice making, and other virtues are called the Seven Skills of Discipline.
At home and in the classroom, a child needs:
Rituals like a morning connection “I see the light of Christ in you” or chapel prayer
Routines (pray, get dressed, fix bed, fix lunch, go to school)
Creating a Prayer or Peace Corner (a way to cool off or offer their struggles to Mary or Her Son)
Centers (a place or box of items that interest them)
When a child, like my son. has these needs met it makes for smooth sailing (at least for a little while). I am reminded through the efforts and these daily choices of the great gift our son is to our family. He has provided a more narrow path for us to work toward sainthood.
All of my children remind me during this lent that I must rely on you, Lord. I can find best practices to apply and listen to the experts however ultimately I rely on your strength and Your wisdom especially in the unexpected moments.
What life-giving choices am I making today?
To view articles in our Grace through Everyday Sanctity series, go here.