When I first heard my child’s diagnosis, I remember going blank. Strange to remember feeling “nothing,” but it was very powerful. What gradually seeped in was disbelief, fear, guilt, and then, fear again. My daughter was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of two and my son with Oppositional Defiant Disorder in his early teens. I immediately jumped to how would this impact them as adults?
It took me awhile to digest and research their particular disabilities. I became very anxious. I wanted to make life as easy as I could for them. However, this was often not what they needed. In the Calm Parent program, Debbie Pincus addresses how anxiety and reactivity gets in the way of our parenting. It interferes with our ability to stay focused on issues and to stay neutral in dealing with our children. In her article: Anxious Parenting: Do You Worry about Your Child’s Behavior? She describes the difference between a calm parent and an anxious one. I was an anxious parent. I needed to know that they were doing ok in school academically and socially so that I could feel better.
So, how do we as parents take care of ourselves? Between the societal pressure to “control” our children, “make sure” that they are successful, and “socially acceptable,” it’s a wonder we get out of bed in the morning.
Here are some ideas that were helpful to me:
- Know that we can not control our children, we never could. But we can influence them and accomplish more by controlling ourselves.
- Don’t “awfulize,” as James Lehman states in The Total Transformation program That is, projecting a negative outcome for any positive action or effort. In other words, don’t look ahead 6 years and fear that your child won’t graduate from high school because they struggle with reading in first grade. So much happens from month to month, let alone in a year.
- Take time for yourself. It’s simple to say, but very difficult to follow through on. We need time and space as adults.
- Think about how you can reduce additional stress in your life such as keeping the house clean, cooking, shopping and driving. It’s so easy to get sucked into trying to “do it all,” but try and stop and prioritize. It can mean the difference between getting exhausted and stressing everyone out and having a relaxed simpler evening. As Debbie Pincus explains, anxiety is contagious, but so is calm.
- Remember to look at the big picture. What is most important is your relationship with your child, not the spelling grade. Being supportive without being forceful will help you accomplish more with your child while enhancing their trust in you which is so important long term. As Debbie Pincus says, it’s not just about now, it’s also about ten or twenty years down the road.
Holly Fields has her Masters Degree in Special Education. She has worked with children with emotional and physical disabilities for over 15 years in the home, at school, and in rehabilitation settings, as well as therapeutic riding programs. She has been with Legacy Publishing Company on the Parental Support Line since 2011. She has 2 adult children, 2 rescue dogs and 1 cat.