This is the very best advice I can possibly share. This is what you need to do when your child has differences.
I began watching a docu-series on YouTube last week, all about different families raising children with varying differences and special needs.
The single mom with three kiddos on the spectrum.
The 18 year old girl with significant learning disabilities trying to find a job.
The elderly dad caring for his 49 and 46 year old children, wondering what will happen to them when he is gone.
I cry every episode. I laugh every episode.
Most of the time, I find myself nodding in agreement, in understanding and in support of the decisions these families are making to live as well as possible.
After a week of these videos, there is one thing that stands out – no matter what the disability or difference, no matter what the gender of the primary caregiver, no matter what the level of daily care required – these families are happy.
They are happy and they are doing the very best they can.
This morning, I woke up thinking of them. The adult children, desperate to find their place in a world that seemingly doesn’t much want them. The parents fixing the lunches just so, because they know a meltdown isn’t necessary over a cracker. The dynamics that seems so familiar to me, but to an outsider watching, might look a lot like coddling or just plain weird.
As I consider what I have learned from this series, I realize there is one common thread that exists across all of their lives, and mine as well.
We are all doing whatever we need to do to make our lives work.
The Very Best Advice I Can Give You For Mothering A Child With Special Needs
I am often asked what advice I would give a mom new to her child’s diagnosis. The longer I have been a special needs mom myself, and the more diagnoses my children have received, my advice has changed a bit over the years.
Nine years in, this is the very best advice I can give you, and the YouTube series reflects its value.
Do Whatever Works.
It may seem simple, but if you are living this life every day, you know better. If you are mothering a child with special needs, you know how different and overwhelming life can be. Making the choice to do whatever can be downright terrifying.
Doing whatever works for your family means letting go of your own expectations for how it should be, how you want it to be, and how you thought it would be.
Doing whatever works means letting go, even when it feels like your life is already spiraling out of control.
It means judgement from other parents who don’t understand, who couldn’t possibly understand.
It means questions and confused looks from doctors and therapists who don’t have as much experience as you do with your kiddos.
Doing whatever works means you will question yourself all the time.
Am I letting him get away with too much?
Am I being unreasonable?
Am I ruining my child?
All of this is true, and yet the best advice I can give you is still the same.
You need to let go and do whatever works.
What You Need To Do When Your Child Has Differences
It’s a paradox to be sure, but it’s true. When we finally let go and lean into the life we have been given, as much as it may seem like we are giving up so much, this is when we finally have a bit of freedom and control.
Whatever works is what allows us to enjoy our lives and our children again.
It frees us to be parents again and not just caregivers.
It’s not easy, but I can tell you that when I finally let go, I found so much to be thankful for. I found a life I was willing to embrace, instead of fight.
My children are better for it.
I am better for it.
Our lives, no matter how different they may be, feel like ours again.
For More Encouragement and Support
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.