When your child has special needs, it is hard to figure out how to help them thrive. Raising my special needs child, I often felt so wrapped up in the struggle. I wanted to protect her at every turn. It was difficult to stop and see my life and the lives of my family members in perspective.
Now, my special needs daughter is married. My other two children are launched into their lives.
How did my special needs daughter reach this milestone despite her struggle to reach maturity? I realize, it wasn’t what I did, it was what I learned…. to let go of. It seems that the most difficult role of a parent is allowing our children to take flight in whatever ways they can.
When my daughter was young, I tried to shield her from some of the emotional blows. I made choices for her even when she was old enough to make those choices for herself. My drive to protect her was so strong that I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing every step of the way.
One night, we experienced a parent’s nightmare. Our twenty two year old daughter fell asleep at the wheel and struck a phone poll at two thirty am. The car was nearly totaled but our precious girl was unharmed. Of course, this event made me want to hover over my “baby” even more. After all, I did not even let her get her license until twenty-one.
I felt paralyzed after that event. How could I trust her to drive? The truth was that she stopped at a local diner just a few moments before the accident happened and had her friend follow her home for the remaining two miles of the trip. She tried to use good judgment.
If we do not give our kids the chance to use the abilities they have, how can they practice independence? It is we parents who need to learn how to enable our children starting at a young age.
Of course, each child is unique but each child has his or her own abilities as they develop. Keep looking for the child’s talents and abilities. Encourage your child to use their gifts. Praise their efforts. Include them in making age-appropriate decisions.
As a parent, develop a system to help yourself evaluate when you can step back and let your child take responsibility for an action or decision. Learn how to manage your own fears. Strive to make parenting choices that are most empowering to your child’s growth and development.
It is not easy to develop these parenting skills. For me, it took acquiring a Life Coaching Certification to help me recognize where I was stuck in my life and as a parent, and how to move forward productively. I found out that creating balance in my own life was essential for me to grow as a parent of adult children.
What are some practical ways to create balance?
- Make time to care for yourself. A parent who is rested feels less stress and has more mental clarity.
- Sit down and look at where you are in your parenting style.
- Make a conscious choice of how you wish to parent your children.
- What are your goals? Taking the time to create conscious choices in our lives enables us to act with more intention in the moment and create more positive outcomes for our families and ourselves.
- Remind yourself to do more listening. This is a tough one! I can relate to that maternal urge to interject my own opinion. I need constant practice in the art saying less.
Parenting is a journey like everything else in life. Cut yourself slack and keep on trying. I remind myself of this thought everyday!