Most of us like operating within our comfort zone.

The comfort zone is a cozy space where we feel safe and familiar. While it provides a sense of security, staying within its confines is not necessarily good for us.  In the short term it can give us that dopamine hit that feels lovely but it doesn’t always serve our long term goals well to always choose what is comfortable.

This is true in many areas of our life.

Choosing the most comfortable, cushioned running shoes doesn’t tend to result in strong feet that can walk along a beach easily when you are older.

Choosing to lie on the lounge to watch TV of an evening is rarely as good for us as going to bed that little bit earlier.

We are told that choosing to sit rather than stand doesn’t support our long term health and posture.

Choosing the less healthy food options can feel great in the moment but not so great if we do this for a lifetime.

Both children and adults can fall into this trap; fearing change and avoiding new experiences.  No one likes to be uncomfortable so we naturally tend to avoid putting ourselves into these situations.

As parents, we rarely want to see our children experience tricky emotions when out of their comfort zone as we ourselves know how challenging this can be.  It is essential however that we recognise that true growth and learning occurs when we stretch ourselves beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.  This is true not only for us but for our children.

For children who need to learn new speech and language skills, the capacity to move beyond their comfort zone is often required.  When working with younger children, we can often weave facilitation of their development into play and everyday routines.  Children may not even realise that this is ‘intervention’ when adults do this well.  However, as children get that little bit older and move into their preschool years, speech therapy often requires repetitive practice and speech drills in order to change existing speech patterns and encourage new skills to develop.

Learning new speech sounds can be difficult for children as can learning new concepts at school or learning to read and spell.  It can feel uncomfortable when learning new skills.  This inevitably requires us to support our children to stretch beyond their comfort zones.

We all react differently when we feel uncomfortable.  If children can be supported to process rather than avoid these emotions then we are much more likely to see steady progress towards achieving therapy goals as well as the development of other important skills that will set your child up for a lifetime.

The Power of Taking Risks

Trying to do something that feels difficult involves taking a risk.  A risk that many children find difficult to take is that of risking failure but needing to try multiple times before achieving a goal helps children to learn resilience and problem-solving abilities  Developing the confidence to face challenges head-on is a skill that will certainly serve them well in life.  Supporting your child by working with your child’s therapist to present a task this is ‘tricky’ but not too ‘tricky’ is the key here.  Offering reassurance, understanding and praise for attempting to learn a new skill will gradually help your child to take risks during therapy and home practice.

Nurturing a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. When children adopt a growth mindset, they become more willing to embrace challenges and view effort as a pathway to improvement. As parents, therapists and educators we play a crucial role in nurturing this mindset.

If we focus upon celebrating effort, persistence and progress made over time this will help you child become more open to learning new skills and confident in their own ability to do so.

Developing Patience and Persistence

This tip is more so for parents and educators.  Changing speech patterns to learn new ways of communicating takes time.  This is true even when speech and language skills are developing well on track.  Please understand that your child is not being lazy when struggling to transfer a new skill into conversational and everyday interactions.  Hang in there and choose short term goals as you work towards improvements in the ‘big picture’.  This will help you to see the small steps that your child is taking towards achieving his or her long term goals.  It is also important to realise that this is not a science experiment.  Other factors that impact your child’s progress cannot be controlled.  Late nights, illness, holidays, busy family schedules…all contribute to how steady your child’s progress might be.  Keep you eye on the prize and celebrate the small successes along the way!

Co-Regulation to strengthen your relationship with your child

We often fall into the trap of expecting our little children to be able to manage or regulate their emotions without our support.  Big emotions can arise from feeling uncomfortable during home practice or therapy.  We can really assist our children to persevere at these moments if we first acknowledge these emotions and support versus distract our child.  Avoid the temptation to ‘brush off’ your child’s feelings or become frustrated yourself at these moments. Once you have acknowledged your child’s emotions, you can ensure that the task you have presented them with is achievable.  Can you both work together towards achieving the goal?  For example, if the task is to attempt saying 10 /s/ words and your child is struggling to engage with this; can you try saying the words in unison/ together, or in turns?  Once you child sees that you are truely on his/her side and willing to work together towards the end goal, you are likely to get far more engagement and willingness to try from your child.