When Supporting Your Teen is Not Enough
Effective parenting requires repetition, persistence and focus
It takes years to teach life skills, so no task is too small or too soon to learn.
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Parents of exceptional children can only do so much. We continue to support our young adults in more ways than we can count. Although sometimes, it seems like a “thankless” effort when there is simply no motivation for them to do so on their own.
In my own quest and desire not to be defeated, I have focused on three areas that might help parents encourage their teenagers to be all they can be.
1. Children with a disability are children first. It is important from birth, or the start of the diagnosis, to include him or her as an equal within the family unit. Make sure siblings and family members treat your exceptional child the same as they would other children in the family. I have always felt that children with a disability are children first; they have a variety of “wants” and they, too, need love. They cry, get scared and sometimes they just need a hug — just like anybody else. Hold the child accountable for any choices made; good or bad.
2. Prepare the child for the "big" world. Seasoned parents of exceptional children understand the need to socialize their children. This includes making plans and choices to assist children with making independent choices. Include age appropriate life lessons, such as saving money, paying for food, learning to drive or buying a bus ticket. It takes years to teach life skills, so no task is too small or too soon to learn. This will be much more important than taking care of them after they get into the "real" world.
3. Repeat this phrase daily; "I am not helping my child if I am helping him." Your kidlet will need all the hands on experience they can get. Stand firm and trust your instincts. Not all, but some teenagers, and especially some teenagers with a disability, only do what they absolutely have to do. Once I learned to stop “babying” my young adult, I saw a change in his behavior. Encouragement and appreciation, even when there is obvious failure, is essential for motivating our youth. Repetition is a must for teenagers who process information more slowly.
Parents should stay focused and keep their eye on the prize — most likely it will get worse before it gets better.
C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with disabilities. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal’s Exceptional Blooms.