Stages of acceptance
Too often, when we begin worrying about a child, we would like things to move forward very quickly: parents' initiatives, meetings with specialists, evaluations, answers, etc. Our intentions are good; we want to maximize the child's development to ensure he is ready for kindergarten. Too often, we would like everyone involved to be at the same stage, the stage that involves recognizing the difficulty and taking initiatives. Too often, we forget about the parents' feelings and reactions. They may have never seen what you are suggesting. At best, they may have had doubts, but simply weren't ready to accept their child's difficulty.
Not very long ago, I found myself in the parents' shoes when I was on the receiving end of a diagnosis for my son. Let me tell you that this brought my understanding of what parents go through to a whole new level. Even if I knew much too well the probable results of my son's evaluations, I cannot say I was 100% ready to hear a professional tell me about my son's challenges. I can honestly say I went through every stage of acceptance and they led me to bounce between feelings of guilt, anger, and acceptance.
The stages of acceptance can be divided into five steps. I decided to write about them today because understanding these steps is very important. Above all, it is very important that you, as an early childhood educator, accept the fact that when you share your concerns about a child with his parents, they may not be at the same stage as you.
Shock/Denial: At this stage, parents receive the "announcement". Emotions are practically not present. The reality of the situation has not yet sunk in. They somewhat refuse to see the situation for what it is. From their point of view, it does not yet exist.
Anger: Here, parents begin to slowly realize that going back to their previous situation is impossible. In a way, they are mourning. They are now aware of the situation and this may bring about negative emotions.
Bargaining: Parents continue to be somewhat in denial. They attempt to use an aspect of the situation to negotiate or bargain their way out of it
Depression: Here, sadness kicks in.
Acceptance/Adapting: Parents take control of the situation. They now better understand and accept it. Their family life slowly begins to fall into place, it is reorganized per their loss or according to their new situation.
This entire process is not linear and not everyone goes through every stage. At times, some may be quite angry and then go back to the denial stage. They can bounce back and forth among the different stages for quite some time. As an early childhood educator, your goal is not to analyze parents, but to understand their reactions. When you share your concerns with them or when they receive an official diagnosis for their child, they will go through different stages of acceptance. The first step, if you wish to support them adequately, is to recognize this fact.
From there, things will slowly fall into place.