When a parent receives a diagnosis about their child, or just suspects one, or simply realizes that their child has any kind of special need, many of us ask “WHY??”. We may wonder what we did wrong? What could we have done differently? How am I supposed to do this? How will I teach my child? Will they grow up and be a successful, happy adult? Will others understand? Will he/she be bullied and shunned by peers? “WHY MY CHILD?????” First, I want to tell you that those feelings and emotions are normal and you aren't less of an awesome parent for feeling and thinking them. I often hear parents say “I wouldn't change anything about my child!”, but I beg to differ. I don't know any parent that would not wish that their child didn't have extra hurdles, extra struggles to deal with. I don't mean they want to change who their child is, or regret what they have learned from their child, but I'm sure we would wish it was an easier road. A more gentle path with more supports and less criticism, less crying and pain. We all wish for that. It's never easy creating a new path in life, but sometimes that path comes with plenty of guides and tools to clear the way, sometimes, it comes with very little help, and you have to make your own tools, or hunt down those that can help. I dream of a day when all parents can EASILY get the help and support they need to parent their child. For now, I will send up my flag to signal to others that I am here! You are not alone!
I have definitely learned a lot from my 10+ years of motherhood. I'm very grateful for what I have learned about children that struggle to meet all the demands placed upon them. I have learned that I cannot just enforce a consequence and teach a lesson. I have learned that my child needs a different approach. I have learned that all of us do better with a collaborative approach than with an authoritative one. I have learned that what can be viewed as a challenge in one situation is a gift in another. We all have our struggles at various points in our lives. It's so hard to watch our loved ones struggle, especially a child. We are supposed to help them and teach them. It's so much harder when we have to stop a learn a new way to be able to teach them and show them how to handle the struggles they have. We do have to work harder to do what is best for our children. We have to start speaking out so that we can find each other and not feel alone so that we can lean on each other and learn from one another. We need to make things so easy that we never really need to feel so desperate as to ask “Why my child??” but instead we think “Ok, so this kid will need some supports to be with same-aged peers, but the teachers and staff are well equipped and supported enough to put these supports in place.” Our family and friends will just say “Oh, they have ADHD, (Anxiety, bipolar, etc). Ok, so what is their favorite movie/game/activity etc.” and carry on just like they would with another child.
I am reminded that each person on this earth is created in the image of God and that we are each, PERFECTLY and WONDERFULLY made. While my child might struggle with impulsivity or larger than life emotions, he is also super creative. He may think of every possible thing to worry about, but he can also think of a myriad of solutions for problems. His big emotions make him very empathetic when he sees another person sad. His extreme enforcement of “fairness” will make him a great champion of the less fortunate or needy. His desire for everything to be “just right” helps him to persevere towards his goals. His high energy will benefit him as a parent, he'll be able to keep up with the toddlers!! Unwillingness to take no for answer will help him create new things or solve problems others thought were too big to overcome. He might not take my word for anything, but he will think for himself. There are so many skills that are tiresome for us parents, but these same skills are often admired in adults. If you have a struggling child, try to think of how their personality traits are really gifts and help them learn how to use those gifts for their own benefit. It's not always easy and may take a long time to master, but never give up on your child. These kids need us more often and for a longer time than those that do not struggle.
There are days that you feel so done! So exasperated to deal with the same thing over and over again. Or just when you think you have things worked out, some new struggle shows up. You find yourself walking on eggshells, just waiting for the next issue to pop up, never relaxing, always tense. You are afraid to tell anyone because you fear the judgment that might come. So no one talks about it, except in private groups on Facebook. We need to share our resources and educate everyone about how to help our struggling kids. Anyone who cares for and educates children needs to learn how to be supportive and stop the blame game. Stop trying to think up new consequences and punishments, they will not fix anything.
We have to change our lenses and be more open to others. “Others” need to be less judgemental and know that we just want to be understood and supported. To not point out the kid with the headphones on or the chewed up shirt. Stop giving “that look” to parents of the screaming child, even if that child looks to be “too old to be acting like that”. If you have a friend whose child has a diagnosis that you are not familiar with, do some research, ask her what she might recommend that you read so that you can more understanding. If these things can happen, if people would try to be more compassionate and understanding of all others, we would not feel like asking “Why my child”, when we have a child that struggles.
For support and a community of parents of children that struggle please go to http://www.livesinthebalance.org
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