Do you feel guilty about the way you parent? Do you constantly ask yourself questions like, “Why can’t I handle my child’s behavior differently?”, “What am I doing wrong that my child behaves like this?” and “What is the matter with me- no matter how I discipline my child, he/she continues to misbehave.” If this sounds familiar, take heart. You are experiencing the normal ups and downs of parenting.
All parents experience some measure of self-doubt, but parents of children with special needs especially do. Children on the autism spectrum or with learning challenges and/or attentional issues put parents into unknown territory, forcing them to confront problems both unforeseen and often times behaviors that don’t respond to typical discipline.
Research indicates that parental competency is especially taxed by these disabilities, in part because they are not detected at birth. Through the diagnostic process, parents experience profound feelings of fear, loss, and worry. They frequently feel isolated and confused about the best way forward. It’s easy to fall prey to making comparisons- a no-win scenario that compels them to compare their child to his “normal” siblings, her cousins, or classmates.
Because it’s so common for parents of kids with special needs to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, finding support is vital. It takes time to get to know their child, re-evaluate their expectations of them, and also of themselves.
Meeting and spending time with other parents who face the same challenges helps tremendously. At In Step, we ask parents to participate in their child’s counseling process not just because their child can’t make progress without their parent’s help and support, but also because parents can inspire, share resources, and provide reality checks to one another. Through exploring difficult feelings, trying out new behaviors, and embracing learning that comes from mistakes, parents find ways to navigate unfamiliar terrain.
Understood is an organization that supports millions of parents whose children struggle with learning and attention issues that provides research, expert advice and a wealth of resources. Here’s a link to a video they put out featuring parents of kids with learning and attention issues talking about their feelings of guilt and shame: https://youtube/w0HoNmlCmnQ