Pick Your Battles

By Gina Badalaty

 

There is a point, as a special needs parent, where everything feels like a battle.  Days can feel long when you argue with care providers, aides, and educators – and that doesn’t include the times you disagree with family members or are disciplining children.  I can’t count the nights I’ve stumbled into bed, deflated and defeated from arguing, feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything.

 

I don’t do that anymore and one of the major reasons for that is that I’ve learned to pick my battles.  Now, I take a simple approach on whom and how I should fight:

 

  1. Don’t fight with the kids. Granted, my children are still little but that doesn’t mean I don’t lose my temper. I take a deep breath and step back to calm down and diffuse – a mommy “time out”.  If there’s something they don’t understand that causes them to tantrum, it’s up to me to find creative ways to communicate it beforehand: pictures, reward charts, thoughtful discussion.  Be prepared by planning how to react to bad behaviors before they show up.
  2. Don’t fight with your partner about the kids. If there is something you don’t agree on, calm down and find time alone to discuss discipline, scheduling, and other parenting issues.  If it’s a big issue, such as changing providers or trying new therapies, do your best to thoroughly articulate the challenge, and then sit down and discuss it, allowing your partner time to consider and help decide what to do next.
  3. Pick your child’s healthcare, childcare, and support providers with care.  If the people who provide services for your children disagree with you, pressure you to do things you’d rather not, or seem to be insensitive to your child’s disability, it may be time to find new providers.  The truth is no one understands your child like you do.  And while “instinct” and “gut feelings” may not be 100% accurate, if you are ill at ease every time you encounter someone, you may want to investigate further.  We’ve changed aides and care providers a number of times, all to our children’s benefit.  Today, my husband and I have a caring, helpful staff that accepts our authority as decision makers while providing advice and care that we trust.
  4. Confront schools with support. IEP meetings should not be a dreaded event, as they seem to be for most parents I’ve met.  Again, be prepared, reviewing what you’d like to see happen for your child in the upcoming weeks.  When possible, don’t go to these meetings alone.  Try to bring a partner or aide, or else acquire an advocate.  Your child has a right to an education and an appropriate level of inclusion. Don’t let administrators, teachers, or psychologists talk you into something that is not a good fit for your child.
  5. Don’t feel guilty. Not every provider can accommodate every case, and not every school will fit your child’s need. You have to put people in place who can give your child the best chances of success.  It’s difficult to let people go, and you should be respectful and honest when you do.  Some people may take this personally or be overly sensitive but that has nothing to do with your choices.  Do what’s best for your child without worrying about bruised egos.

 

Successfully parenting a disabled child means picking and choosing your battles carefully, as well as going into them fully prepared and with allies on your side.  Avoid the battles at home, and save your energy for where it matters.  Your child will benefit from your patience and effort.

Gina Badalaty is happily married, lives north of Philly and is mom to two special needs girls. She works from home as a web designer, mommy blogger, blogging trainer, and aspiring novelist. Since surviving a stroke at age 33, she counts every day as a blessing and an adventure. She is passionate about finding and telling compelling stories that touch the spirits of women everywhere. You can visit her at www.mom-blog.com.

Posted in Kids with Special Needs on April 2nd, 2011 | Permalink | Comments »
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