Anyone who has been on the emotional rollercoaster called parenthood would agree that parenting is the toughest job on earth. It’s a 24/7 job, no leaves, no pay and yet it’s something we all want to do. Why? And again only a parent can tell you why it is the most rewarding thing you could ever do. Exhausting yes, but the most rewarding.
Remember the sleepless nights, running after your child trying to feed them, bathe them, put them to sleep, calm them when they cry, have somebody dependent on you, not knowing what’s wrong when they cry… That’s what it is to have an infant at home. And the only thing that maybe helps take you through the initial years is that you keep telling yourself that it’s a phase. Soon, she will be older and be able to manage some of these things on her own, and my inputs will lessen.
But what happens when you have a child with a developmental disorder (or delays). This ‘phase’ is potentially lifelong, and we must face the fact that our input might never lessen.
Many a times, this is the struggle of a parent with a child with Autism. The questions, exhaustion, and concerns are very similar to that of a new parent. It’s a learning curve, and in some cases, a very bumpy ride. Luckily, a new parent has a lot of resources at their disposal, and now with increasing awareness, a lot can be done for our special children as well. The real heroes however, parents of children with difficulties, are often left to fend for themselves.
All I can do is share some tips for all these great parents, to help survive the rough parts, and celebrate the milestones.
Be Kind to Yourself
It’s not possible for you to know all the answers, and to be able to solve all the issues. There will be times when you won’t know what to do, and even make mistakes. And at times you might feel like you’re being watched and judged by others. Remember just like it’s a learning curve for your child, it is for you as well. You will make mistakes, you will stumble, but when you do, make it part of your dance.
Often when we’re trying to inculcate a skill in our children, we’re met with resistance. Especially if we are trying to help them unlearn some inappropriate behaviour and substitute with more appropriate behaviour. When there are massive meltdowns, we are often tempted to give in to demands. Keep your eye on the big picture. Remember why you are doing what you’re doing. It is to make situations easier in the future, and more so to make your child more functional. It’s almost like when we are trying to train our babies to sleep on their own, and they cry uncontrollably when we start to put them in their cot. Yes, those cries are unbearable, but we stick to the plan and within a few days when the baby starts to sleep by herself, the tantrums seem like a thing of the past and so worth it. That applies here as well. Just keep a few things in mind.
- Take baby steps to help your child transit into a new routine
- Know your goal; what it is that you are exactly trying to teach your child
- Use consistent (instructional) language
- Get everyone (family members/teachers/caretakers) on board to handle the difficult behaviour similarly
- Know what helps your child to calm down, if he gets uncontrollable
- If you need to walk away from a situation, make sure of his physical safety first
- Keep calm in body and language
Let it Go
Many times when our children get diagnosed with a condition, we often assume most behaviour as part of the problem. Firstly, you cannot fix or change everything. Secondly, you have to accept that this is part of his/her personality as well. They will have specific affinities, need for structure and routines, and certain ways of talking and behaving. Let them keep their uniqueness, as long as it’s not inappropriate and does not prevent them from regular day-to-day functioning. Also, be in touch with neuro-typical children, as you will learn the signs of development. Echolalia, tantrums, fussy eating, affinities, separation and social anxiety etc. are all stages of growing up too.
Take a Break
Don’t forget to care of yourself. Happy parents make for happy kids. It’s important to take care of yourself. Often we are so busy attending to our children that we forget about our own personal needs. Ask for help when you are tired or don’t know what to do. Sometimes you just need to step away and look at the situation from a distance and it can give you great perspective. Also, at times you will be amazed how watching someone else handle your child can give you fresh, new creative ideas of problem solving or skill building. We can get too involved when we are in close contact, so for the emotional wellbeing of yourself and your child, take a break now and then.
In the end, all I can say is embrace your child and celebrate each and every step, each and every milestone and each and every success. Go out and have a good time with your child, as a family, with friends, in your home, outside, anywhere and everywhere – you have nothing to hide.
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