When Your Child Doesn’t Reach Their Milestones

When Your Child Doesn’t Reach Their Milestones

23 May 2022 • Words by Nanette Botha 2 mins

Parents have many things to keep in mind and keep track of, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Days with children are often full and busy without taking into account our own responsibilities at work, at home, and towards our partners and friends. How do we cope when we become aware that our child may not be reaching all their milestones on time?

According to Misirliyan & Huynh (2021), there are five areas of development with various goals that a child is expected to achieve at a certain age. These range from goals relating to motor skills and cognition but also include goals that concern a child’s emotional-, behavioral- and language development.

Physical milestones are usually easier for parents to be aware of and therefore it is often also easier to notice when our child is not reaching a milestone on time.

If our child, for example, has not started walking by their second birthday, most parents would be concerned and seek help from a medical professional. However, milestones relating to behavior-, emotional- and language development are not always as clear and simple for a parent to realize when a child is falling behind. This is not because we are bad parents. It’s because we spend so much time with our children that we know them and understand them well. Even when they may not be communicating with us or acting (and reacting) in an age-appropriate manner, we may miss the signs

Thinking about milestones can be anxiety-provoking, especially when we start noticing missed milestones in our children. 

It is important to take some time for yourself to stay calm. Even if a child misses some milestones, support can always be found. It does not mean that you have failed as a parent and it certainly does not mean that your child will never reach those milestones.

It would be a good idea for any parent to speak to their child’s teacher or even a friend who knows their child well. Ask their opinion about certain developmental milestones and try to listen objectively. A teacher may notice some subtle signs in your child merely because they see many other children of the same age on a daily basis.

If you then do become aware of milestones that are missed, make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.

They will be able to tell you whether there is a need for concern. And if so, they will help you work out a plan to support your child in their development. Do some breathing exercises or meditation before your appointment to help you feel calm. Remember – even though milestones are important, it is not everything. Children develop at their own pace and every single child has strengths, but also things that they find challenging. We can support our kids’ development by engaging in interest-based activities and interacting with them in a positive manner. The value of spending quality time together (and the effect that it has on our children) is not to be underestimated.

Misirliyan, S. S., & Huynh, A. P. (2021). Development Milestones. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

Nanette Botha

Educational specialist & mother of 3 young children Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental