Parenting an autistic child has taught me a huge amount about differences and parenting. No matter what type of parent you are there is always one key ingredient to successful parenting which I will share with you in this post.
Parenting & Mum Guilt
When I was young I didn’t really understand why there wasn’t one key parenting manual with the right way to bring up children. I did grow up to realise the world is full of so many different people with very different needs that no manual could work for them all.
Working in politics taught me there is never a right way and there are always exceptions to the rules. Parenting advice is always a hard one, I have had fantastic advice and support from other parents. At the same time been crushed by advice that wasn’t right for us or was offered at an inappropriate time.
Parenting is without a doubt the hardest job there is, every child has individual needs that parents only really understand after we make the mistakes. Mum guilt is a real thing that we all carry with us beating ourselves up for every little mistake.
As parents to children with additional needs we are faced with lots of well meaning and often ill informed advice. In addition we have a whole load of additional guilt to add to our pile. Did I push my child enough? Did I push him too much? There is no way to get it all right all the time.
So when something is ridiculously complex we need to pull it back to the most simple bits. What do I want and what is the ultimate goal for my kids?
I want happy and healthy kids
I can’t actually control if my children are healthy. Whilst there is much I can do to create healthy lifestyle sadly I cannot stop them from having health issues all together so this can’t be the key. Can I make my kids happy?
What is happiness? Whilst having money and success are great as the saying goes it can’t buy you happiness. I am not sure I can control happiness entirely but we can certainly build the foundations for it.
Our Kids need affirmation
So where does happiness come from, I think it comes from an acceptance of ourselves. Children are generally born happy with lots of joy that as a society we take away. An excited child is told to stop being so loud, to wait or they are wrong etc. We teach children to be calm and follow rules which does take some of that joy away.
There is an entire world out their ready to tell our children they are wrong and to hurt them. In order to face that world we need to build them strong foundations and not be the one telling them to change.
Not everyone will understand our children but it is our job to understand and accept them in every way. It is very damaging to anyone’s self esteem to be told you are wrong and how you feel is wrong.
Obviously you can disagree and feel differently but never dismiss someone else’s feelings because they differ from yours. If your child can hear a buzzing noise you can’t, they need affirmation that is OK and you will help even though you cannot hear that noise. If you dismiss them with ‘don’t be silly there is no noise’ we are teaching them not to share with us.
Don’t get me wrong we will always make mistakes and say the wrong thing, we all have emotional moments but it’s how we act the majority of the time that matters.
I am going to give you a quote from Jean Illsley Clarke in ‘Self-esteem A Family Affair‘. A book my mother in law shared with me: ‘positive self esteem is important for children, for adults and for our culture’
Affirmations from the book:
- you have every right to be here
- your needs are ok with me
- I’m glad you are who you are
Essentially all of us need to feel truly accepted for who we are and we need to be reminded of this regularly from the ones who love us.
So what is the one key ingredient?
My one key for all parents is love. It really is true that all you need is love.
Life throws so many things our way but the one thing we can always provide is love. The strength of a child’s foundations is built with love. All humans go through life making mistakes, changing our minds, being different. What we all need is one person in life who loves, supports and accepts us completely.
I love my kids as we all do but to be the best parent I can I need to absolutely accept and embrace every part of who they are. I know as parents we will all have concerns about our children but it’s how we share those concerns. Some conversations need to happen so they don’t hear them ever. If we have issues to share with our kids it needs to be in a way we are voicing concerns constructively. Always remember our words can have lasting impact.
There are days when nothing gets done, often professionals give us simple targets and we are then facing them a week later not having done it. This is life we are not superhuman with extra hours in the day. I can very easily spend 12 hours just keeping my kids from hurting themselves and trashing the house. This is life and whilst we all have the best intentions we rarely get things done the way we plan to. The one thing we can do is be there and love our kids.
Every child deserves to be loved for who they are.