Shut up about your perfect kid! 4 ways to help parent/carers facing the challenges of special needs
Posted on 10th June 2022 at 12:08
By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor
My experience as a parent/carer has taught me that fear stood in my way a lot, when my son was smaller. We had daily challenges to reduce his anxieties around people, places or things. It often felt like we were walking on eggshells to reduce fears – his and ours. The following tips are what I have found helpful in my parenting journey from child to adulthood.
4 Tips to cope:
My hubby and I have always advocated for a ‘dark’ sense of humour and laughing at the stuff that is embarrassing or just out of this world funny or ridiculous that only we would get!
One example that comes to mind is a shopping trip to the supermarket when our son was little. Our son was labelling the food as we put it in the trolley - saying “biscuit,” “cake” revelling in all his own food likes and saying “yum.” The checkout cashier gave us a curious look (mind reading moment thinking this kid eats a lot of sugar) and she smiled when our son shouted “yuck, disgusting” as he was putting some fish in the trolley.
Another incident (or wow moment) we had was when our young son who was being toilet trained decided to use the display toilet in a certain DIY store! We very swiftly left the building before he did anything major. But what a giggle we had afterwards.
Humour is always a great diffuser before arguments start to escalate. I may have spoken in a squeaky or funny voice on many an occasion to a family member and we have fell about laughing and things have then been calmer. Spoiler Alert – please don’t use humour to be sarcastic or when things are heated it will be upsetting for all involved. Use your timing and judgement.
2: Encourage Independence When They’re Young
Yes, we talk about how crucial independence is all the time. But in all seriousness, allowing your child to make mistakes under your supervision while they’re younger can encourage self-soothing, problem-solving skills, and independence. Allowing your child to harness their personal and practical life skills encourages them to grow as an individual.
The fact of the matter is that you will not always be there for them, and that doesn’t have to be a bad or scary thing. It’s important to be a warrior for your child, but it might be just as important to allow them to experience success and failure for themselves.
Understanding that there are aspects of your child’s life that are out of your control is an imperative step to beginning to transition your special needs young person into adulthood and make the experience a little bit easier for them.
Look at options for clubs and groups where your child can go to interact with other people their age. There are opportunities at your child’s special school usually in the holidays for respite, and access to activities. A respite program will do wonders, not just for building independence for the child, but for the family as well.
While most families are concerned that their child may not do well or be upset or scared, in most cases, it is the parents who are scared… not the child.
The staff at these facilities are trained to work with all individuals with special needs and have plans in place to work with all behaviours. This is their job so let them do what they do best.
Here’s a secret: most children with developmental and physical disabilities are much the same or normal developing kids and the fact is, they do not always want to hang out with their parents. It’s not cool! They strive or desire as much independence as possible to allow them as much freedom as possible while keeping in mind issues which prevent them from achieving this but give them as much as is safe.
3: Plan Ahead
Whether we like it or not, the unfortunate side effect of living is aging. Unfortunately, the entire plot of Peter Pan is not a reality, and your child is going to grow up. This can be especially difficult for individuals with special needs. Thinking ahead to their adulthood can be a great tactic to alleviating stress and subsequent confusion that comes with parenting an adult with special needs.
It is recommended at age 17, before they become a legal adult at 18, to seek out information and register with social services so they can access support in the future. Let them know what you and your loved one need.
Your local Learning Disabilities Team have professionals that can advise and support.
4: Learn to Transition Yourself
Your young person will grow older. Learning how they can be more independent and self-sufficient can make you feel unneeded and fearful. Sometimes, when your child grows up, you must transition yourself into a new phase of life. This will be much harder for the family than it will be on the child. As I have found in my own family.
Families that have dedicated their lives to their child sometimes find they have to give up certain things or interests for the greater good. When you find you have more time available, it will take a bit of adjustment.
Look at your own needs and your self-care. Is there something you have always wanted to try and now you have more time is it possible to do?
Can you take the opportunity whilst not caring for your loved one every day to slow down?
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