I was flipping through “Sanity Savers: Tips for Women to Live a Balanced Life”, by Dr. Dale Atkins when the words “Gaining Control of Your Life When Your Child Has a Disability,” jumped out at me.
The entry talks about how when you were pregnant “you had an image of the child you were going to have. Now you have a child that is different from that one.” Sounds simple enough, every parent has an image of the child they think they are going to have – the one that sleeps through the night, the one that is going to love to eat vegetables, the one who will never throw a tantrum in a public space.
These scenarios are easy to adjust to – the tricky part is adjusting to a child whose needs require you to change your life the way you know it. Dr. Atkins continues that your child’s diagnosis will “challenge you as a competent person and parent, but it can also give you enormous opportunity for growth and discovery.”
I believe this is where so many parents become stuck after a diagnosis. They continue to hang onto the child they thought they were going to have – the child that doesn’t need to have implant surgery, the child that doesn’t need to go to an intensive speech therapy program, the child that doesn’t need to learn ASL to communicate. And in some ways that dream child begins to grow larger than life, crowding out the actual child that needs the new dreams of her parents.
Dr. Atkins is not talking specifically about a diagnosis of hearing loss in this particular entry, but her advice is more than relevant in helping parents put the diagnosis and their emotions into perspective.
Let Go (of the child you expected and appreciate and adapt to the child you have)
Create Your Own Normalcy (adjust to new expectations; explore you and your child’s strengths and weaknesses)
Learn As Much as You Can (about the diagnosis)
Identify Areas of Stress (separate long term stresses, from short term; make flexible plans)(Atkins, 2007)
Here are some tips I am adding to her list:
Look after yourself –whether it’s reading a humorous essay, going to a yoga class, or sitting on a park bench. Find at least 15 minutes a day to be alone to renew and recharge.
Find a Support Network – this doesn’t have to be anything formal, although it is nice to connect with other parents of children who have hearing loss.
Don’t project – take one day at a time. Don’t’ stress yourself out about your child’s high school graduation and how they are going to fare in college while they are still in preschool. Appreciate your child for where they are now.