Warning, vulnerability just ahead!
Over the past few months my son has transitioned from being at school to heading out into the world as an independent young adult. And I have found the transition really challenging.
Of course, I understand this is quite a normal feeling for a parent. But for the past 14 years, as he has continued to flourish under the roof of our family home, I have been on a mission. That mission has been to learn as much as I can, to advocate successfully, to impart knowledge, skills, and abilities to help develop this incredible young man who was born with a significant learning difference.
I have had to be a driving force in his journey and at times I have had to fight for him. We have been in the same car on the same road for a very long time, and at times it’s been a very intense ride.
But at the start of this year, we hit a fork in the road. We no longer sat in the same car.
His pathway changed
It was so exciting. Everything we have prepared him for, everything he has worked so darn hard at school for, all the relationships and skills he has developed are now in place to allow him to follow his dreams.
So why was I finding this so very hard?
Letting go after years and years of being the driver, being in charge, in control, and having to have such a strategic focus on moving forward (I’ll admit I operate best when I am in control). I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t.
So what can I do to help with how I’m feeling?
Last year I did a live Chit Chat with my colleague and friend, Jane Kjersten. Jane is an incredible counsellor who focuses on supporting others to find themselves and be their authentic self.
Whilst at the time this chat was centred around getting through lockdown it was so useful to go back to and listen to again. This time, I viewed it through a very different lens and focused it on my current situation.
The chat highlights some key points that might help:
- Understand your emotions (emotional literacy)
- Be self-aware Name it - Normalise it - Validate it
- Whanau can work together to pick up the emotional coaching
- Feelings matters - talk to one another and listen
- Reality check your expectations - as Jane says in the conversation “our children with SLDs connect with the world differently”
- Focus on the successes - success breeds success
- Gratitude Gratitude Gratitude
- Come home-to-self.
If you are parenting a child, teenager, or adult who presents with a Significant Learning Difference and you too are finding it hard to navigate your journey in terms of feelings I really encourage you to consider taking time for you to Name it - Normalise it – Validate it.
When I stepped back and took some time to name, normalise and validate the change in my relationship with my son. The fact that there is increased separation and that things are different. I quickly realised how important it is to acknowledge (validate) the shift in parenting practice, to acknowledge how I'm feeling, and to talk through the challenges and successes.
Where will you stand?
Will you stand in front, beside or behind?
As parents I believe we take on all these positions at different times. No one of them will become a permanent place. I know I will continue to learn when to adjust my position, but I will do so with an increased understanding of why and the implications of the change (in terms of our relationship) when I do so.
I have found it so powerful to be mindful of where I am standing at each point in time and to consider how that relates to how I am feeling, and I encourage you to do the same.
And as for him - well, he’s going great guns and living his dream.