Parenting a Differently-Abled Child? Keep These Things in Mind
A child’s mental illness affects the entire family. Parenting a child with any sort of disability can be psychologically stressful. Fear is a big emotion which is always on the periphery. Whether it’s fear for the future of your child, or for what you may be unintentionally doing wrong. While getting professional help is the first and most important thing you can do for yourself and your child, here are a few other helpful tips.
1. Seek Assistance of Another Parent
Seeking another parent who is going through a similar journey as yours can be an enormous blessing to you. You will understand each others emotions and struggles, and their learning and experience will be an invaluable gift to you. Seeing somebody else face similar struggles like yours, and still be thriving, is an inspiration and a reminder to always be positive. You can also introduce your kids and have them play or study together. You can meet these parents in either support groups or can ask your doctor to introduce you to one. It’s a mutually symbiotic relationship, and it hurts no one to make a friend!
2. Seek Information
Don’t be afraid of asking questions till the condition, its diagnosis, symptoms, consequences are absolutely clear to you. Sometimes parents are intimidated by doctors and medical terminology and their professional behaviour and as a result keep quiet about their concerns.
Asking questions is your first step in understanding your child better so never let fear or hesitation get in the way. It’s important though to seek accurate information and not just information. So who you ask your questions to and who you trust is important. Don’t mindlessly google information when you have an expert to go to. A good idea is to make a list of questions when you think of them so that at your next appointment you have it ready. Keeping a record book of information you have got, including all prescriptions and diagnostics is also important for future reference.
3. Avoid Pity
Self-pity is a deep dark pit, one which is easy to fall into and get lost in. Avoid it. It’s often not on purpose and it doesn’t at all mean that you’re a bad person or even a morose person. It’s human but it’s also just a waste of your time. Cut of the thought before it gets rooted. This is your reality for whatever reason and you need to own that. That’s it. Also, avoid pity from others and feeling pity for your child. It’s simply not a helpful emotion. Instead seek, and feel empathy. When you are empathetic you make an attempt to understand what the person is going through, you feel for them. Empathy is to be encouraged, while pity in all forms is best avoided.
4. Therapy Must be Playful
Therapy for kids and therapy for adults is not the same. For children, play is therapy and therapy is play. Results will be most meaningful when you’re working with a professional who has the ability to engage your child in ways which are enjoyable for him/her. They must challenge your child, but not in a manner in which the child feels defeated or discouraged. Instead he must feel enthusiastic and inspired to face those challenges.
5. You Too, Require Therapy
You are a superhero. You manage challenging and often risky situations on a regular basis. And yet you get through this day in and day out and often even without a tantrum! You deserve a medal, really. But you are also just human. So take some time out for your self and seek help. Vent. Take it all out. Therapy can be a rejuvenating experience for you because you will be heard without any disturbances or interruptions. It will only be you and your feelings, no impossible situations, no hysteria. Give yourself that. You deserve it.
Please note: This list by no means is comprehensive. These are just 5 helpful tips.
(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)