We launched Journey Skills to the world just under four months ago. During this time we have been so lucky to find people willing to share their stories, achievements and challenges with us. The views and opinions of other parents who’ve contributed over this short period have inspired me to reconsider many of my parenting ideas. Everyone has given me something to think about or imparted a tip or tactic I hadn’t thought about when dealing with my own daughter. These are just 4 things I have learnt but there are so many more and to all those people not mentioned below thank you for sharing your stories with us, we hope to share many more stories and learn from each other.
1 Make Time For All Your Relationships
This piece of advice came from Linda at the end of her podcast interview Growing Up With Asperger’s. She’d spoken of the challenges bringing up a boy with Asperger’s and her visions for his future. Then, just when I thought she would sum up by saying something like these are the key things if you have a son with Aspergers, she dropped a piece of sage advice: In order to give to your child what they need you must first give to yourself. For her it meant sometimes taking the time to do the things she enjoys. Also date nights with her partner, keeping the connection in their relationship alive. Sometimes as parents to children with additional needs we forget the importance of our own well-being, and our other relationships, and focus only on the challenges in front of us. We all need to try to put ourselves in a good place first in order to have more patience with our children, for my daughter certainly requires some patience.
2 Find A Space of Me (and You) Time
I caught a glimpse through the window early in the morning at Tracy Rice Weber house. In her guest blog Striking Balance I really understood how precious me time was to her. Getting up early in the morning was a chance for her to indulge in something she loves, something that gives her energy and meets a deeper spiritual need. And then I was also struck by her compassion and generosity as, when her son rises early for breakfast, she was able to put aside that something so precious to her and spare him time to listen to what he has to say. Her piece was not only beautifully written, it was also a lesson in having regard for other people in our lives.
3 Don’t Stop the Fights
I’ve always tried to stop my daughters arguing throughout their childhood. On one level it didn’t seem fair that the eldest used her age and greater language skills to win over her sister. On another level I simply didn’t want them to fight. But in truth the younger, despite additional needs, knows exactly how to get a reaction out of her sister. Maybe as Julie suggests in We Are Family – Sibling Relationships that it is sometimes better to let them get on with their fights. Sometimes it is good for a child with additional needs to be told by a peer what behaviour is expected. Perhaps this helps them develop more than me protecting my daughter, because at the end of the day her elder sister does love her and can say things without malice.
Since Julie’s podcast I have tried to let them finish their arguments, and while sometimes its been uncomfortable I have been surprised by the results. My eldest seems to make my youngest think more about what she’s doing than I ever can. Perhaps it’s a change from the dynamic of a father telling her what she should do to a sibling telling her what is acceptable teenage behaviour. I’m hoping that in later years, as Julie did with her sister, they become the best of friends.
4 Focus On The Long Term
Childhood is a brief 15 years in a whole life, according to Andy in Long Term Goals Built On Small Steps. Sometimes I’m too anxious to get my daughter to do everything every other child does rather than take the long term view. So what if it takes her an extra couple or three years to learn to cross roads safely? So what if it takes trial and error to teach my daughter how to use the train network, with me in the next carriage in case of cancellations, late trains and platform changes? As Andy says they are 50 years or more of being an adult. It isn’t how quickly my daughter reaches these levels of independence; it’s more that she reaches them, eventually. To get this requires a long term goal, a vision of where I want my daughter to be. What I need to remember is that everything else along the way is a small step, and if one step isn’t reached within the right time frame it doesn’t matter. The step is a step, and when it is met we can move on to the next step. I shouldn’t get too stressed or lose too much sleep over this, as long as we’re on our journey to our destination.
We thank everyone who has taken the time to give an interview, shared our posts and commented on our Facebook page. There’s an awful lot I don’t know, and I’m learning from you how to be a better parent to my daughter with additional needs. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on our Facebook page, as well as anything you’d like us to talk about.