Karen is a mom to three deaf and hard of hearing teens. She is the Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion and a board member at Hands & Voices. Karen recently released The Parenting Journey: Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids. I was finally able to catch up with her and ask her a few questions about the motivation behind her book, well as what are some of the realities of raising children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Karen you have a great deal of experience working in the deaf and hard of hearing community. You have also had your own reality of dealing with hearing loss over the course of your life. What made you want to write the book at this particular time in your life?
The book just kind of poured out of me. I spent many years working with families with deaf and hard of hearing children as well as raising my own three kids and I just wanted to share my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned along the journey. For me, one of the most valuable aspects in this whole parenting experience has been the wisdom, support and sharing from other parents. I wanted “The Parenting Journey” to be an extension of that.
When you have a child with hearing loss it can be difficult to sometimes distinguish between behavior that can be attributed to typical child development and behavior that is specific to your child’s hearing loss. In your book you mention that it “shouldn’t always be about the hearing loss.” What advice can you give parents about how they can help with their child’s needs?
That’s always a toughie! As a parent, you have to step back and ask yourself, “Would my child be going through/experiencing this if he/she wasn’t deaf/hard of hearing?” The answer isn’t always easy or clear. Always check to make sure that communication is happening and that both you and your child understand each other – that helps rule out the deaf/hard of hearing part of the equation.
Another thing to ask yourself when it comes to your child’s behavior is, “Will this matter ten minutes, ten months or ten years from now?” If it’s something that’s going to solve itself in a short amount of time, then pick your battles wisely.
In your book you talk a lot about the importance of recognizing options and choices in dealing with hearing loss. What can parents do when they feel overwhelmed by the decisions and choices they need to make?
The good ‘ole “pros and cons” list can be helpful. In areas where you need more information or education, seek out mentors (parents, professionals and D/deaf/hard of hearing adults) and ask questions.
Dan Miller from 48days.com has some general guidelines that I think applies very well:
1. State the situation/issue.
2. Get advice.
3. List alternatives.
4. Choose the best alternative.
If you’re overwhelmed, take some time to do nothing. Understand that doing nothing, is also a choice. Ultimately, you have to get into a place where you and your spouse/partner/significant other “own” your decisions for your child. You’re doing the best you can with the information and resources you have at the time. Also, look at your child– you will find that you learn a lot from your child and the journey changes as you all grow as a family.
Great advice! As you know parenting is full of ups and downs. Have there been certain times throughout your journey that were particularly difficult?
Yes, we’ve faced twists and turns on the journey. We’ve encountered the occasional team member who did not agree with our decisions. The kids themselves have moments where they’re facing challenges and as a parent, it can be really difficult to watch your child go through struggles. As a parent, our natural instinct is to smooth the road for them, but they have to learn to do this themselves.
Agreed! It is so important to provide our children with tools they can use in difficult situations. It sounds like you were able to find a great deal of support on your journey of and we know how critical it is for parents and children to find support. Do you have any suggestions how parents can go about trying to find support when they live in an isolated area?
Support can indeed be a challenge and sometimes it feels like you’re all alone on the journey. Seek out organizations serving parents and request support. There are online groups as well. Local hospitals, schools and service organizations may have regular meetings for parents. Thanks to technology, Skype, ooVoo and videophones offer face-to-face opportunities for parents to connect with other parents, professionals and D/deaf/hard of hearing adults.
Karen, I thank you for taking the time for the interview. Your book is a wonderful addition to the resources available for parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. I wish you luck with your future projects!
In addition to all the work that Karen does in the DHH community she is also a Passion Coach and the author of three books. In her spare time, she can be found walking on water or competing at barefoot water ski tournaments. You can read more about Karen and her parenting journey on her blog deafmomworld.com