Dealing with Family and Friends and a Child with Sensory, Behavioral or Developmental Difficulties
Our family and friends are the best part of life, aren’t they? Except when they aren’t!
When we bring children into the world, our relationships with family and friends evolve. We change so much as we become parents and grow into our new role. Whatever our prior relationships with family and friends were, it is different now because we are not the same.
As every parent learns, some before-child relationships weather the change well and some do not. It depends. For example, does this friend like children? Or, how does your family member want to be involved in the new family, and does that feel right? Every relationship makes its own rules and has its own needs. Changes to a relationship can be rewarding, or grueling, or both.
Naturally, parents always hope that the good things in dear relationships will survive the change, and the friends and family will support the new family.
Parents are often surprised to learn that the older relationships can also be stressed by their particular child. A before-child relationship might not be a good fit for a particular child. If not, the relationship will be stressed. And, if a child has challenges, the before-child relationship can be even more stressed. Thesechallenges can be hard for friends and family to understand. Not all friends and family get it or welcome the new children or their parents’ efforts.
When a child has extra difficulties, we need the loving, patient, support of our friends and family more than ever. But, when a child has extra difficulties, our friends and family’s support capacity can go straight out the window. That’s the last thing a challenged parent needs.
Often, well-meaning friends and family offer advice. “Just be firm!” they might say. Or, they might say, “don’t let it bother you, it’s no big deal.” Or they might suggest the child is “just a kid.” That can make you feel unsure of yourself. It can make you wonder if perhaps you are too weak or too tough or too inconsistent or any number of things that feel bad. Then, instead of feeling support, you can feel embarrassed or angry or abandoned.
Finding ways of bringing our family and friends to understand and support our challenges is hard. Sometimes, we must find ways to help them help us! Or at least, find ways to leave their confusions aside and stay true to what is most important: raising our children in a wholesome way. It is possible to stay positive in relationships with people that do not understand our children.
The key is to be closer to our own experience. Naturally, like all parents, we find ourselves frustrated with our children. We can be confused by our children. We are sometimes angry. We can be overwhelmed. And we are always trying to do our best, even in a tough spot. By being kind to ourselves for our challenges and our efforts, even if they do not pay off today, we help our friends and family become kind. Our honesty, openness, and self-regard can slowly work its way into our family and friends’ hearts and ultimately come back to us.
In the meantime, find other avenues and other people who understand. That way, you will feel grounded.
The heart of my practice is helping parents gain the support and confidence they deserve so they can be the best parents they can be. I help parents by validating and understanding their own experiences as parents and work with them to break down difficulties so they face parenting positively. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-583-9358 to learn more or discuss whether working together is right for you.