Researchers have shown that parents who receive emotional and practical support from their families and friends have an easier time of adapting to the demands of raising a child who is deaf and hard of hearing (Marschark, 2007).
While these findings are not surprising, what is surprising is how difficult it can be to offer the right kind of support when you are a grandparent of a child with hearing loss.
According to Dr. Charlotte Thompson, author of the book Grandparenting a Child with Special Needs, “one of the hardest things about having a grandchild with special needs is knowing when to help, when to say something, and when to stay quiet.”
While grandparents do want to offer help they don’t always know where they fit in and depending on the relationship between family members prior to the diagnosis it can be extremely difficult to adjust to a different reality.
I realize my family is fortunate to receive support from both my parents and my mother-in-law; however I know that is not always the case. While every family adapts differently to hearing loss the following tips can help lead to a closer relationship between parents and grandparents in supporting their child with hearing loss.
- Think about what you would like to have done in a similar situation and then ask your child if that would be helpful. Can you offer babysitting services if you live close by? (either to look after a younger sibling, or for the parents to have some time alone.) Can you volunteer to research different treatment options? Ask your child what would be most helpful and don’t be offended if they aren’t sure what they need at the moment. Everyone needs time to adjust.
- You might be hesitant to talk to your child about your feelings as you don’t want to burden them with your emotions; your child might interpret this as a sign that you don’t care. Find ways to communicate and connect with your child.
- Educating yourself about hearing loss is the best way to help your family. It’s difficult to offer support if you don’t have an understanding of the diagnosis. Connect with others who have had similar experiences; contact national support groups and organizations; observe your grandchild’s therapy sessions; ask if it’s okay to speak with their therapists and audiologists. Most professionals love to speak to grandparents as they serve as another layer of support for the child.
- Be careful when you Google! While there is a ton of great information and resources on the internet; there is also a lot of outdated research and misinformation. The AG Bell Association and Hands and Voices are both great places to start!
For more information on how grandparents can help support their grandchild who is deaf or hard of hearing look you can click here for a link to the article I wrote for Volta Voices.
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