10 Things Parents of Children with Challenges Need to Hear
1. You are Not Alone
Talk with your partner / spouse / friend. Open up and share a bit with someone you feel you can trust. You’ll be amazed how many people will say “I can relate!” or “Let me connect you with my friend / neighbor / cousin…” Resist the urge to isolate. Social support will lighten your load.
2. Caregivers Deserve Care, Too
Taking care of yourself isn’t something to put off for ‘later’. Daily micro steps will buffer you from stress and vicarious trauma so you can give your best, not just what’s left. Start by taking some deep breaths, finding reasons to be grateful, and drinking enough water. You’re allowed to experience joy along the way.
3. This is Hard
Parenting is already hard. Raising a child (or multiples) who struggle with mental health, learning issues, developmental differences or any other challenge that requires extra care is harder. It just is.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
Hold your own hand and remind yourself that you are enough. We can be harder on ourselves than on anyone else. Do the best you can with what you know today. If you make a mistake, remind yourself that nobody’s perfect. Nobody! Everything your child needs from you is within you.
5. Trust Your Gut
An expert might have the right credentials, but you know your child better than anyone. Your observations and instincts matter. It might take some time to find you voice, but you will. Your voice is your superpower.
6. Calibrate for the Long Run
Raising children is more of a marathon than a sprint. You don’t have to do everything possible for your child right now. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself just to get through a storm. No matter how strong the storm the sun will shine again. Always remember you can do it. That’s why the saying, ‘You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails” is a great mantra to follow.
7. Recognize Grief is Part of the Process
When your child and your life aren’t what you had imagined, the emotional upheaval is real. Society doesn’t often acknowledge that parents like us grapple with grief. It takes time to adjust to a new normal and make peace with being on a different path. You can accept and love your child exactly as they are and still have hopes and dreams.
8. Keep Your Sense of Humor
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain and conflict. Even in the toughest times, it can feel better to laugh your head off than to cry. No joke! Laughter releases feel-good chemicals in your body that counteract stress. Look for the humor in a tough situation. Find a funny comic or viral video. Laughter can shift your perspective and brighten your outlook.
9. Resist Comparing
As the brilliant Anne Lamott says, “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” We are wired to look for problems and negatives but parenting by fear causes us to be reactive, unproductive, and unhappy. Instead of imagining that other people’s Instagram lives are real, that their children are perfect and all is blissful, focus on the good that you know. Celebrate your child’s strengths and small victories. Consider what’s going right. How are you growing? That’s what matters.
10. You Can Emerge with Resilience
You – and your whole family - can emerge stronger and more connected on the other side. Adversity might not feel good, but it can stretch your compassion, understanding, faith, fulfillment, patience, purpose – and more. It’s true.
You’ve got this!