By Dawn Crocker
I have been a mother more than once – and from experience I have found that when you bring a new one into the home it is not the “new one” that has to make adjustments, it’s the rest of the family that feels displaced. When Caleb was born, because of all the physical difficulties and emotional uncertainties, there were even more adjustments than usual. But I believe there are a few things we can do as parents to help with these challenges.
Give everyone permission to have feelings. Feelings are not right or wrong; it’s what you do with them that makes them negative or turns them into a positive. I try to help my family put words to their feelings. Statements like “if I were you I might be feeling angry or left out” help validate them. This helps them to have more constructive responses to their feelings.
Find a safe friend to communicate with. I found that I had some “friends” who were trying to help, but did not. It is okay to distance yourself from these people, at least for a time. I did have one friend whose comment gave me a new perspective; one that continues sixteen years later to keep my perspective positive. These are people you can invite into your inner circle to support you and your family.
Be open and honest. I have found it very helpful for Caleb and other family members to talk honestly about his disabilities. We are purposeful in acknowledging Caleb’s limitations and inabilities. I believe this helps us all to be less vulnerable to disappointment, embarrassment and even teasing from others.
Find the positive. A good friend gave me a great perspective on what we call disabilities. She said, “Caleb is less judgmental, more affectionate, finds good in everyone (even the bad guys in a movie), is more content and complains less (even though he has more to complain about). There are things Caleb can do better than most and yet he is considered by some to be “slow or retarded”. This perspective has guided me in our focus for education. Our goal is to utilize and capitalize on Caleb’s strengths and to acknowledge and work on strengthening his weaknesses.
I have found that by keeping all these things in mind it has greatly helped my children and me. Perspective is key with everything in life and the more positive ones outlook, the easier everything seems.