Q: My toddler is so much less verbal than my neighbor's daughter, but my pediatrician says he's totally normal. How can I stop all the worrying and comparing?
A: Comparing your child to others can be so hurtful -- but it's a fact of life that we all do it, almost reflexively. And as a way of monitoring how our kid is doing, it's not necessarily such a bad thing either. If your pediatrician had concurred with your concerns about your son's verbal skills, you'd be distressed, but you'd also be thanking your lucky stars (and your articulate little neighbor) that you could get your son help early. That you're still stressed despite your doc's giving the all-clear may not be so horrible either -- depending on why you feel that way.The doctor probably gave you plenty of reasons to put your mind at ease, such as: kids develop at different rates, boys are less verbal than girls early on, and so on. But if you have a nagging suspicion that your son has some kind of developmental issue despite your doctor's reassurances, then of course you're going to be worried. In that case, go ahead and get a second opinion just to be sure. Chances are you'll get the same answer, that all is well, and you'll be able to relax and let your son develop at his own perfectly appropriate pace.On the other hand, if you're more concerned that the 2-year-old next door is "more advanced" than yours, then you do need to chill out. Sure, you want the best for your child, but you know being the "best" isn't necessarily it. There are parents who make a virtual career of trying to "improve" their children, turning themselves -- and their kids -- into nervous wrecks in the process. You don't want to be one of those types, do you?
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2005.