If you’re a parent, plenty of advice comes your way.
Most from strangers, or mild acquaintances, this advice originates from their own experience. We all use our own experience to make sense of the world and how things work. Usually, the advice sesh a quick interaction and everyone goes their merry way.
Things shift, however, when you’re a parent of a differently wired child. The advice is more pointed. It often directly or indirectly assumes there’s something wrong with your child. Or that you’re not doing a good enough job as a parent. It’s easy to get offended, hurt, or overwhelmed when you’re mind is already full.
If you’ve got a child who doesn’t fit the mold, you have enough worries and doubts to fill a Trojan horse. When someone gives you advice, those fears and doubts start to fight for more brain space. Mix that with the exhaustion and the fear that something IS wrong with your child, and it feels like there’s no path forward. You feel like the empty horse after your thoughts have run rampant.
Who do you listen to?
Advice comes from all angles, so consider the source. Anyone can wax philosophical about the best way to parent your child. But they aren’t you, and likely don’t have training in counseling, gifted children, or whatever challenge you’re experiencing. Even if advice comes from family members who know your child and situation, they likely are still drawing from an old paradigm: their experience. Remember that most people mean well, and it’s worthwhile to not take things too personally. If someone is deliberately trying to attack you or make you feel shameful, that’s a sure sign that 1) they’re not trying to help, so don’t listen, and 2) you need to figure out a way to lessen the proximity of this person.
What advice will make a difference?
Instead of letting your mindset fluctuate based on other people’s opinions, proactively seek out answers to the questions you have. You will be better equipped to handle ‘advice’ when it comes and you’ll develop a network of trusted resources. There may not be ready-made answers, because your situation is unique. There are easily recognizable patterns, however, that illuminate the unknown. (Others may not have the same situation, but lots have had similar situations to offer educated, empathetic suggestions.) When you fill your toolbox with information and resources, you’ll be able to hear the advice without reacting or internalizing any nasty messages. There’s information about any situation available online, and if you need guide through it all, that’s why I’m here.
Trust your instincts.
You are the best parent for your child. That’s why they chose you. They have something to teach you, and you have something to teach them. Trust your instincts when it comes to your kids. It can be difficult to stay true to what’s best for your child and your family, because of the constant messages and social programming of what things should be. We’re all programmed by social expectations. It’s our responsibility to decide what matters and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to question advice or seek other opinions. I’m convinced that if you look hard enough for something, you’ll find it. Trust your instincts and stay connected to the knowledge that what you’re seeking is what your child needs to thrive.
Let your child lead.
This is a hard one. Parents know best, right? Perhaps in some areas, but you don’t have to know IT ALL in every area. (And there’s no way you can!) When it comes to your child, let them lead. Ask them questions, give them options. Particularly if your child can communicate with you easily, give them opportunities to develop their unique identity. Psychologist Scott Barry Kauffman once noted in a podcast (which one I unfortunately forget!) that differently wired kids have an advantage in that they’re already different. The typical model of development is that people conform until they work their way out of that to find their true selves. When you already exist outside the ‘norm’, all you have to do is embrace that uniqueness and run with it. Of course, you need support and strength to make it through the years where everyone is usually the same. (Elementary school, I’m looking at you!) Give you kids opportunities to step into their skills and support them in becoming who they want to become.
Remember, people’s beliefs about ‘what should be’ change slowly. As a parent of a differently wired child, you’re part of a bigger wave of inclusion that’s gaining momentum. Things seem difficult at first when you’re not sure what’s going on, but as you learn more about your circumstances and build community, things get easier. The parenting part may not get easier, but there’s less doubt in terms of doing what’s best for your family. Kids will always push your buttons and test any system, but when you arm yourself with knowledge, intuition, and a solid support system, you’ll be able to help your child thrive. (And you’ll thrive more too!)
If you’re looking for support in figuring out your differently wired journey, that’s why I’m here! I coach parents to help them illuminate the ‘unknown’ parts of the journey without having to reinvent the wheel or spend hours on internet research. (Not to mention how to keep connected to their own needs through it all!)
If you think this would be beneficial, sign up for a free Spark Strategy Session.