As families with special needs, we develop almost ninja-like warrior skills in fighting for our kids. We are strong, even when we feel weak. We speak out, even when we are shy. We believe in our kids, even when others don’t. We are courageous, even when our hearts ache.
Our adeptness strips away our memory of what life was like for us before life was “so special.” We become accustomed to doing everything for our kids and filling our time with endless and often necessary activity.
Our dedication becomes our strength. But what happens when our power becomes our weakness and we find ourselves trapped in “over-managing” or being “over-protective”?
- Our parenting souls twist in the wind. The twinge of conflict makes us want to let go and protect at the same time. And, we often decide it is more comfortable and faster just to do things ourselves. But, are we helping our family members maximize their potential? Are we preparing them for life without us?
- To free ourselves from conflict’s rusty vicelike grip, we need to reconsider what our parenting job entails.
Think about the three P’s of parenting listed below.
- Protect. You already have this one down.
- Prepare. Might need some more work here.
- Project and Expect. We are going to start here.
I recommend you and your family sit down at the kitchen table, a pencil and notebook in hand and begin to look into the future. Where are you all headed to? Set expectations for them to live as typical a life as possible with needed supports available. Trust yourself to figure it out.
Project and Expect
Let me share a few examples of how other families have used their strengths to figure it all out.
Joe’s family had few expectations for him as he left school. A local provider invited Joe’s father to a training session where Griffin-Hammis, LLC was presenting on customized employment.
They knew Joe liked popcorn. That was back in 2000. Joe’s business, Poppin’ Joe’s Kettle Corn has been in business for eighteen years now. You can find his popcorn in Walmart, at craft fairs across Kansas and Georgia and even in Iraq as he sends popcorn to the troops. They started with what seemed impossible and made it possible using their parenting strengths. They found their vision.
Mikelle wanted to move out on her own. A vision, as I have said before, with little support. It happened. She is a homeowner and has successfully lived on her own with a roommate and paid support for six years. We started with her being alone thirty minutes at a time while I was at the neighbors. Each day we worked on decision making, organizing her day and teaching her to direct her care.
Living in rural Colorado in a town of three thousand mountain folks, resources were limited. No provider would help Kara and her family design a satisfactory future for her. But, Kara had a vision for herself. She, too, insisted on living on her own.
But, Kara’s brain injury had affected her executive functioning ability, her day to day tasks. How would she remember to lock the door, let the dog out or turn off the stove?
With her mother’s assistance, they researched different technology solutions which help Kara cook her meals, bake cookies for the local firefighters helping to ensure awareness for her safety.
They settled on an in-home camera only visible to her parents, Amazon’s Alexa, the Aida Reminder app and an iPad, Kara now lives on her own with support. Together, they programmed Aida to mimic that voice we all have in our heads reminding us of what to do during our day using Kara’s voice. Check out this Woman’s Day article about Kara and Alice to learn more.
Begin to imagine what responsibilities and chores your child can do around the house.
- Can you use an app like Aida or Pictello to teach your child how to make their breakfast, clean their room or assist in yard work? These apps allow you to break projects into specific tasks, just like Kara.
- Visual Planner is Mikelle’s favorite. She spends 40 minutes a day planning out her day. The bonus is her spelling, and sentence writing skills have improved as well as her fine motor skills. Now, she hands her iPad with the schedule on it to direct her support team on what the day’s activities include.
- Clutterbug.me is a beautiful site full of colorful and printable checklists for kids and moms.
Expand your idea of protecting your family member to include protecting them by giving them the confidence to be as self-reliant as they can be. Teach them how to advocate for themselves. Help them articulate their wishes. An iPad is great for this effort. Still the urge to do everything for them.
Let your strengths stay your strength. No need to “over-protect.” Just prepare, project and protect their future.