Thursday, December 11, 2014

HOW TO RAISE A CONFIDENT KID (who happens to have special needs): Part 2

You can see part 1 to this post HERE.

I mentioned this in Part 1 but I want to say again that this series is a compilation of lessons that have been passed down to me from others and that I have learned the hard way through trial and error.  I am not trying to suggest that this list will solve all of your parenting woes or that the items listed here will work for everyone.  I simply hope they give you some tools in toolbox as you try and raise your own special needs kiddo.


How to Raise a Confident Kid (who happens to have special needs) Part 2:

6. If they can’t participate because of their circumstance, try to beat it   

I am afraid this one is going to bring on some naysayers but let me explain where I am coming from with two examples.   

My first example is from my childhood.  A few months after my mother passed away, my father was in the hospital for several weeks and I was shuffled between family members.  One day I couldn't reach any of my friends until someone informed me that they were all at my friend Amber 's mother/daughter tea.   I wasn't invited because I didn't have a mom.  I remember clearly going into my cousins room and sobbing.  It was hard enough having my mother gone at 9-years old but now I was being left out because of it too.  I look back at that moment and can't help but think what a difference it would have made to my heart if an adult had stepped in and said, "I know you can't go to Amber's but I want you to know how much I care about you and was wondering if I could hang out with you today and take you to a movie."  That would have beat it for me and spoke the security I so desperately needed because truthfully I didn't like to dress up anyway. :)

My second example involves my son Jack.  He loves to study history and was understandably disappointed when he was unable to go with his class on their trip to D.C.  I remembered what it felt like to be left out because of circumstances so I decided to do for Jack what I wished someone had done for me.  I responded to his disappointment with a mother/son trip.   Jack got to have a say in every detail (including a train ride from Baltimore) and the trip was done completely at his pace.  We had an incredible four days and he thanked me about every 30 minutes for taking him there.  

I know you can't always beat it, but when you can, I think it is good to help them see that your circumstances don't have to preclude you from participation.  Instead, they can open the door for something even better. 


7.     Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

Thankfully I haven't had to do a ton of this because I have been blessed with a great team around my
kids, but I know friends who have.  They would tell you to learn the laws concerning what is
available to your children.  To let your kids know you are in their corner and that empowering
them requires that you know their rights within the school system and the healthcare system.  It
shouldn’t be that way, but unfortunately it is.



8.     Prepare yourself for long, hard conversations.  

Anticipate the questions and how you might respond.  I can tell you too that they come up at the most inopportune times.  I have found that if I try and delay them, I don't always get the chance to pick them back up.  



9.   Teach them that their special need does not define them, but is just a part of their story.

Trent and I work hard to teach our kids that they are so much more than the struggles they face.  First and foremost, they are a treasured child of God.  Then they are a loved son/daughter.  We teach them that they are created for a purpose and we point to the character traits that we love about them.  One area I have to be careful with Maggie is not to refer to her as a "heart baby" but instead a child who has a heart condition.  It may seem like semantics to most but to them it can be where they find their identity. 

  

10.  Combat the victim mentality

This works with all kids.  It is not my intention to be insensitive to the struggles that people with special needs face, but here is how I see it:  I don't believe that those who have changed the world, through their struggles, could have done so if they had viewed themselves as victims.  It takes a completely different mindset to overcome your trials and do something incredible.  I want my kids to have that kind of resolve about them.


So there you have it.  Ten non-exhaustive principles I use in my effort to raise confident kids who happen to have special needs. 
1. Give them perspective.
2. Be honest and keep the communication flowing.
3. Empower them.
4. Show them people with physical disabilities who have changed the world.
5. Prepare them for those who haven't been prepared for them.
6. If they can't participate because of their circumstance, try to beat it.
7. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate.
8. Prepare yourself for long, hard conversations.
9. Teach them that their special need does not define them, but is just a part of their story.
10. Combat the victim mentality.

1 comment:

Megan said...

These are wonderful. We're hoping to travel in Feb or March to get our daughter, who has a couple of limb differences. I've been thinking about and processing her special need so much the last few days, and it really helps me to read things like this from moms like you!

Would you mind putting a link to the second post in the first post? :) I think that would make it a little easier to share places like FB.