I started socializing a puppy… and everyone had an opinion.
I was exhausted after just a few weeks of him … and everyone had things to say about how I should be doing it differently.
At one point I remember having a conversation with a relation, who clearly was just trying to help, to let them know that the things they were doing and saying were not, in fact, helping at all. Their suggestions, anecdotes and facial expressions were actually making an already challenging situation even harder (anyone remember those first weeks with a tiny pup – and one who arrived already suffering from traumatic experiences – and was utterly gorgeous but totally draining?)
What I needed was support.
Big, fat ‘I-know-this-is-hard, I-know-you-are-doing-your-best’ support.
Thankfully a lot of the time I could reinforce what I was doing and why, with the confidence of “this is what the charity have asked me to do”. This helped a bit, but it was only after ‘the conversation’ that things really changed.
I remember thinking at the time (a few years ago now..) that I can imagine this would be 100 times worse for a parent of a child.
Parenting children is hard.
Parenting challenging and complex children is incredibly hard – in that totally exhausting, mind, body, spirit draining kind of way.
And often those around us, who know us well, can tell when we are struggling and they want to do something, they want to help.
HELP comes in many different forms, and let’s be honest, some of them are actually helpful and others not so much. The thing is, if we are that friend or relative desperately wanting to help, then we will not necessarily know what is the best way we can help, so we will just do whatever we think and feel better that we are ‘helping’.
So here are my thoughts.
If you are parenting a challenging child, or any child with sensitivities, then you need to create a team of helpers. It is your job (yes another job for the to-do list, that I know you are probably already too knackered to consider right now, but this WILL help you and your child BIG TIME if you do it) to speak up. You need to lead this situation and let those around you know HOW BEST THEY CAN help you. Help them stop guessing. Help them focus clearly on things they can do to help. They won’t know if you don’t say.
FAMILY + FRIENDS
Family and friends – have the respect to acknowledge you do not know what is going on inside the heads and hearts of those spending themselves in parenting these special children. If you see them doing their best tell them. If you notice the effort they are putting in, tell them! Find what is encouraging, tell them and then ASK what would actually be most helpful. If you want to really go for it, you could also ask if there is anything you are doing that is not helpful 😉
Have the courage to have the conversations that need to be had, understanding that shying away from these issues is not helping the child. When everyone gets on the same page it makes a massive difference to the atmosphere – and a massive difference to children – who are super sensitive to stress dynamics between adults.
Did you know that when children detect stress, friction, animosity of any kind between adults it makes them feel ‘unsafe’ and changes how their brain can work? Really, this stuff is worth doing… for their sake as well as yours.
Children need to know their parents understand them, and from that place of understanding, can lead them.
Family and friends want to help and often need leading too.
If it takes a village to raise a child… it also takes someone to lead that village team.