Some of you who parent a child who has Autism get it, you see the great potential they possess and the intelligence which lies within them. Some parents have difficulty seeing those positive attributes in their children.
I fall somewhere in the middle, though I hope closer toward the former. I am making progress in understanding my son’s capabilities, and I wrote a post about what I am learning called Viewing My Nonverbal Child Differently, if you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so. Not only because I wrote it, oh no, but because there is a link to a post Joanna Keating-Velasco penned that is wonderfully insightful. You don’t have to have a child who is nonverbal to read it, I think it applies to many of us.
Last week I wrote about negativity being contagious. It is, and as I said in that post, we may not realize when we are surrounded by negativity, nor when we are filling our life with it.
When we have a child with special needs, it can be so easy to slide into negativity. Not only do I mean saying things like, “This is so hard,” “Why can’t you sit still?” “I can’t handle this anymore,” “Can’t you eat something else?” I also mean the way in which we talk to others in front of our kids, and what we think, as in our expectations of our child.
SLIPPING INTO NEGATIVE NO, NO LAND
Our son, Jeremiah, had been doing better than he had in months. He had gone through some drastic regression, but finally after several months we saw that glimpse of hope. Wow, it’s hard to stay out of negative land when your child regresses significantly and stays there. Jeremiah had stopped drinking juice, which is how I got this AMAZING, sent from heaven, fish oil in him, his sensory needs were off the chart (well, with SPD, they’re already off the chart, but this was worse), he was no longer employing his limited use of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). I was falling farther into that Negative No, No Land.
Finally, I gave it some serious prayer. And, frankly, and completely honest, a miracle happened the next day. We gained, progress was made; there was less angry gnawing at his clothes, less intense sensory hyperactivity, a happier boy, more emotional connection. I know some of you may not believe in God or miracles, and if not, I invite you to spend a couple days in our life because they’re real.
I was negative in those really difficult months, I said things I’m not proud of. I wasn’t calm some days, I got irritated with my daughter (she doesn’t have Autism) when she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Not only was I seeing everything with a negative bent, I was beginning to feel guilty because of my actions and attitude.
NEGATIVITY CAN STEM FROM GUILT
Sometimes our negativity comes from the guilt within. When we fall short of our expectations of ourselves guilt arises. We don’t feel we’re good enough to parent a child with special needs, we don’t say the right things, do the right things. We aren’t gentle enough when our child is jumping on the couch, and we are sitting him down for the 115th time that hour. We don’t feel we do enough therapy, we don’t have enough energy, we don’t try hard enough to feed her a different, healthier food. We don’t notice when everyone else wants to give us a “mother or father of the year” sticker, because we feel stickers of shame, thinking, “You don’t see me at home, or in the car. You don’t know everything about my parenting.”
The reality is that we all have aspects of our life we need to work on. Not one of us is perfect, but we can all make a decision to be better tomorrow. We can all change how we parent.
No matter where our negativity stems from, be it our own guilt over our “failures” or because of our child’s behaviors, our kids can sense how we feel. It comes across as displeasure, condescending remarks, lower expectations, less effort, and depression. I’ve had to work on all of these areas. I still haven’t reached knighthood, far from it, but I have learned some great lessons, and ways to do it better. You’ve read about those in the links I shared and I will share more ideas to help you stay in the right frame of mind later this week in Part 2.