As the end of the year comes closer we’ll start seeing more and more advertisements about how we can reinvent ourselves in the New Year. Consequently many of us will look at what we’ve done (or haven’t done) and start feeling bad, convinced we’re going to make next year different. What is it about an almost arbitrary day on the calendar that gets otherwise reasonable people thinking they’re going to change their lives overnight?
It’s a noble idea, just not realistic (in my opinion). If we really want to change our lives we need to start by modifying small behaviors, not making sweeping changes; and this can be done at any time. In fact I encourage people to do it the day they decide they want to change, to avoid the almost inevitable anxiety and build up as the day looms closer and closer and we start dwelling on what we are giving up or modifying.
As a Special Needs Planner I will often make recommendations that require families to do something they haven’t yet – from purchasing life insurance, filing for State/Federal services or working with an attorney to get their estate plan done (sometimes all of the above and then some). Speaking for myself – this feels daunting; so we break it up and focus on accomplishing just one thing at a time. If we said we were going to do it all at once most of us (myself included) would end up not doing any of it because it’s too overwhelming.
This applies for anything and everything. For example, maybe you haven’t taken your child in to get tested for a diagnosis because you’re already thinking about all the therapies and interventions they’ll need if the diagnosis identifies a specific disability you’re concerned about. I can’t tell you to “stop thinking about this”, but I can tell you more often than not we make things out to be much worse than they actually are; especially the longer we delay doing whatever it is we feel we should do. And even if it is as bad as we fear, not doing anything about it is only going to make it worse.
A big part of why I created the role of Special Needs Advisor is because I understand, as a parent, how difficult it can be to overcome inertia. There have been (and continue to be) things I “know” I should get done, but put off; and having someone to hold me accountable and answer my questions has been incredibly helpful.
That’s what I offer to my clients – it’s not my job to hold their feet to the fire and say “do this”; rather I break down what needs to be done in the smallest possible steps; and, when requested, I help them take those steps (for example meeting with an estate planning attorney). Being a parent/sibling of someone with a disability can be overwhelming at times, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. There are communities and professionals who are ready and willing to assist you. Yes, some, like me, cost money; but not all. Look to your local non-profits (like Arc chapters) and FB groups, find your tribe. Most importantly – take action.