Our son became ours permanently when he was just about two and a half. We know that some issues were present before he was taken away but we are convinced that much of the damage occurred in the seven months that he wasn’t with us. Over the thirteen years that we’ve parented him we have had to learn some things to help us cope with the situation that we’re in. Perhaps some of these things will help you understand how we do life and why we do it. Please note that when I say ‘we’ I am referring to the collective we that are parents of children with hidden disabilities.
- Let it go.
As a parent we have dreams for our children. One mother wrote that she had to let go of her dream to have heart to heart conversations with her son. Sometimes we have to give up trusting that our child will tell the truth or be able to hold down a job. These are tough things to let go of but we need to open our hearts to different dreams for our child. That may even mean letting go of the child themselves.
- Do what works.
As discussed earlier there are plenty of opportunities for trial and error. Don’t give up trying and take note of what works. For our son, sports works. For another kid it might be dancing or gymnastics. For another it may be animals or music. Feel free to avoid things that are triggers for your child. If the playground is a powder keg, don’t go there! If home education works, use it. If boarding school is better because of the school system, do it. Figure out what works and take advantage of the positive.
- Get respite and support.
I cannot stress how important this is. I didn’t realize how important a network of support was until I didn’t have one that was working. There was a time when I had to realize that I needed a break and my mom took our son for six months. It was hard to let him go but it was necessary for all of us. When he moved back in things were much better. You are not a failure because you need help. Some of my best support comes online. You can find all manner of groups, blogs and websites that are specific to your child’s needs. Some my most healing moments have been in conversation who really ‘gets’ it. To other parents laughing over holes in the walls and the latest manipulative escapades might seem shocking, but it’s better than hiding in your bed and hoping the next five years goes by while you’re under the covers.
- Don’t forget your other kids.
It’s easy to get into a fearful place where you just want to avoid blow ups at all costs, however, there are probably other children living in your home that need to know that their needs are being taken care of. Your child with special needs sometimes has to take a back seat, it may be hard to do, but do it, for the sake of your other kids. Let them kick and scream a bit, they need to know they aren’t actually the center of the universe.
- Take care of your marriage.
It’s easy to get child-centric whether your child has special needs or not. Take care of the most important relationship you have. It might be hard, but it will be worth it.
Whatever the circumstances are that brought your child to this place, there isn’t anything you can do now to change them. Forgive the abusive foster parents. Forgive the addictive birth mom. Forgive yourself for the parenting mistakes and learn from them.
- Keep learning.
Keep reading. Keep researching. Keep asking questions. You never know when you may come across a piece of information that could change everything.
The God of the universe created your child and He knows them better than anyone. Throw out your parenting books and turn to the greatest parent of all. Ask Him for insight and wisdom and patience and grace and He will give it.
- Be thankful
Look for the positive and hold on to it for all you’re worth. Sometimes I feel silly holding onto a voluntary hug but I have to! If I sit around looking at all the negative I will sink deep into a miry clay that I may never get out of. Soon I will be giving up and that can’t happen. I have to look for the diamonds, they may be tiny and difficult to find between all the pieces of broken glass but they are there and they are worth keeping.
10. Self Care
Recognize when you need to rest, get away, talk, sleep, etc. If you aren’t healthy there is no way you’re going to cope with whatever is going to happen next. Figure out what you need to be able to breathe and do it.
**If you are new here you might want to know that this post is part of a series on hidden disabilities. I am going to be continuing this series for all of October as part of the 31 Days Challenge. You can see all of the amazing topics over at The Nester’s! To go back to the beginning of this series click on the Alphabet Soup tab and you can see the indexed list of chapters.