I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges parents face when their child struggles. Some kids have a hard time concentrating, making friends, or managing school. Others are quirky, difficult, depressed or anxious. Kids can be sensitive, gifted, delayed – or just different. They might struggle with hyperactivity, a medical condition, or the general demands of the world. These challenges (and more) apply to kids of all ages.
We do everything we can to help our kids. That’s unconditional love. But sometimes we try so hard, we no longer feel like ourselves. Searching for ways to support our kids, chasing around to appointments, worrying, and advocating can leave us emotionally and physically drained. Remember The Giving Tree? After giving the boy her apples to sell, branches to build a home and her trunk for a boat, the tree had nothing left but a stump for the boy to sit on.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be reduced to a stump! We have so much more to give our children when we keep ourselves strong. To stick with the tree analogy, we can build deeper roots to weather the storms by caring for ourselves. We can only model compassion, acceptance and resilience when we have it ourselves.
Parenting is the toughest job on the planet, but it can also be the most rewarding. It might feel like you’re the only one raising a child who struggles, but you’re not alone. My hope is that together, we can lift each other up. I’ve tried to distill the message I have for you – and all parents in this boat – with a 5-point manifesto. — Let me know what you think!
Here it is:
Strap on your oxygen mask.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s essential.
Let go of the guilt and give yourself permission to practice – just a little.
Compassion starts with yourself.
You may not be able to change the circumstances,
but you can change your experience.
Tiny daily habits can buffer you from stress and create calm in your life.
We can all find the space to respond, rather than react, to challenges.
Begin by breathing.
Parents who have been there can provide perspective.
Much of stress is about perception.
Gaining perspective will prepare you for challenges, and
help diminish what might have seemed threatening.
Don’t isolate. Build a support system; ask for and offer help.
People who understand will buoy you.
Take a risk, open the door a crack, and you will create connections you never imagined.
We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be good enough.
Letting our kids know they are loved and lovable is what matters most.