For the month of June I am shifting my focus from celebrating mothers to celebrating fathers. Fathers are not always front and center when it comes to talking about raising kids with hearing loss. Although I believe this is changing as the conversations about fatherhood continue to shift and expand.
I want to spend this month talking about, and to, fathers, about their kids with hearing loss and what hearing loss means to them and how they respond.
It can be tricky for fathers to find their place after the diagnosis of their child. Not everyone processes emotions in the same way and it can be hard to move through the process when you and your partner have different reactions. But, based on my conversations with many fathers here are some guidelines to help you take the time to look after yourself, your child, and your relationship.
Stay Connected to Your Partner The more you can communicate with your partner the greater your collective strength. Raising a child with hearing loss can strain a marriage, especially in the early stages, when you are completely overwhelmed with everything and trying to make decisions about surgery and therapies. With the increased number of appointments and therapy sessions, not to mention trying to focus with work and any other children you have, there can be little time left to focus on your relationship. Make a plan – it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Coffee together in the kitchen before the kids wake up, a glass of wine on the couch together. It just has to be some uninterrupted time to make some space to talk and connect.
Know That You Can’t Fix Everything Dad’s like to fix things. For many men that is just what they do. But, when your child is diagnosed with hearing loss there is nothing you can, or need, to fix. So, right away take a deep breath and work with the child that you do have. Don’t shortchange yourself or the dreams you have for your child. Having your child diagnosed as DHH does not limit your child from doing or accomplishing anything!
Find a (Healthy) Outlet for Yourself Your life can’t just be work and home. Explain your need to your partner, whether it’s going to the gym after work, talking a walk after the kids are in bed, or tinkering in the garage. It’s not about avoidance, it’s about finding some balance and some time to yourself so you can recharge. Remember to provide some time so your partner can do the same.
Ask for What You Need Silence doesn’t lead to any kind of support. Speak up. There is a pretty low chance that you know someone who is a mind-reader. And, when it comes to having a child diagnosed people really don’t know what to say, or how to offer support. Let your friends, other family members and your co-workers know what you need. Maybe it’s coming in late once a week so you can take your son to his therapy session, or it’s leaving early to coach your daughter’s soccer team, or it’s about taking some time off after your son’s cochlear implant surgery. Whatever it is ask others to help you find a solution.
Father On There is no need to do things any differently. Don’t compare yourself to your partner and how they parent. You need to be a team at this point. Do not parent against each other, but parent together. No need to change your style with your child. Your child needs you and your differences. Be rough and tumble, or sweet and gentle – whatever comes naturally to you.
Educate Yourself Attend a conference, observe a therapy session, follow a blog, go to a support group, email your child’s teacher. It can sometimes be tricky to take time off of work, but don’t always let the default be that your partner is the one that will go to everything. I remember when my husband first attended the Clarke Mainstream conference, it was the connections and stories he heard from other parents that made such a difference in his understanding of our son.
Resources geared just toward fathers can be rare, so I am including some links below that can offer some support. They are not geared specifically towards raising a child with hearing loss, but they do offer some good advice and strategies.
If you enjoyed reading this post and haven’t subscribed yet, please take a minute to do so in the sidebar. You’ll receive a free copy of my mini e-book, 5 Emotional Sticking Points of Raising a Child with Hearing Loss.