Tag Team Parenting

January 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

(TONGUE IN CHEEK!)

(TONGUE IN CHEEK!)

To my great dismay when my now young adult son was in middle school, he became a fervent fan of professional wrestling.  I don’t mean to sound elitist, but I objected to the violence (yes, I know it is all scripted) and the objectification of women.  However, I was powerless against my son’s testosterone and his father’s tacit approval (he hadn’t out grown professional wrestling).  In time I just let it go.  Fortunately, our son learned his values from us and not from WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment).

You may wonder why I bring this up. I could write a blog about choosing one’s battles—a lesson I studied hard during the middle school years, but that is not today’s topic.  WWE taught me the term, Tag Team Parenting.  In a tag team match the two wrestlers in the ring have team members outside the ring.  If a wrestler can get close to his teammate and tag him, he can trade places.  Someone who is being pummeled tries to get close to his buddy and tag so he can leave the ring and fresh wrestler can come in.

If you have a two parent family, you can see how this approach could be quite useful.  Yet very often parents side off against each other when they face children’s challenging behavior.  Being a good team is tricky. Here are some points that make it easier.

  1. Get past the blame game.  If you hear your partner in an argument with your child over homework again, do you get angry with her as well?  If you step in angrily, saying, “Let me handle this,”  you are likely to aggravate the situation or undermine your partner.  You child will be likely to exploit this rift, as in, “I only want Dad to help me with homework.”
  2. Get on the same page.  You can only tag and get help if you both agree about what needs to be done.
  3. Offer support.  By talking about situations after the event you can get to the place that you understand that you want to help each other, rather than prove the other wrong.  Then when trouble arises, you can ask, “Can I help?”  and you can be helpful.
  4. Accept that you might have a blind spot.  Parents are not equally gifted at all ages of childrearing.  One might really understand grade school children but be provoked and befuddled by middle school kids.  You might think you are doing fine, but your partner might see a different, better way.  Be ready to listen.

If you can come to agreement and respect each other’s efforts, it will be easier to tag your partner and get help that feels like help and help that really helps your child.  Parent Coaching can give parents a neutral place to sort out what their common goals are and come to respect each other’s efforts.  Good luck in the ring of child rearing!

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”

 

Photo credit:  Carl Smith on Flickr

 

Surviving and Thriving in the Land of Special Needs

January 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

thriveBeing the parent of child with special needs is a stressful job. I am not telling you anything new.  Today I am thinking about the supports that you need in order to stay on the job being the loving parent and advocate that your child needs.

Many parents have been hurt and angered by things that (well-meaning) educators, neighbors and family have said.  Parents feel guilty that they have envy parents of neighbor children who seem to get their homework done and have time for ballet and sports.  Meanwhile you, the special needs parent, take your child to psychotherapy, occupational therapy, and a tutoring. No time for ballet or sports, even if you child enjoyed them.  Life is not fair.  Two major ways to fortify yourself are to find people with similar struggles and to take care of yourself.

Support Groups

Finding parents who have similar struggles is an essential part of coping with this complicated life.  It is affirming to learn that other parents deal with the same trials in the school system or the healthcare system.  If you become close to some parents you can share your dark feelings about wishing you had a neurotypical child, and likely you find out that you are not alone.  You have permission to be different, and the shame you might feel melts away.  You can also share the wonderful ways that you and your child cope and triumph with people who understand the struggle.

Where do you find these parents?  You might start with your local school system.  Under the federal law, IDEA, school systems are required to have a PAC or Parent Advisory Council.  This body offers a liaison between parents of children with special needs and the school administration.  PAC’s offer informative events. It’s a place where you can advocate for children and meet other like minded parents.

There are also organizations formed to offer online or in person support groups.  In my area two excellent ones are the Asperger’s Association of New England and the Federation for Children with Special Needs.  These organizations offer parents online and face to face ways to network with other parents.  They also offer excellent information about dealing with school and healthcare systems.  There are many other similar organizations.  For Attention Deficit Disorder there is CHADD which has online and local face to face parent groups.

Self Care

As you go from meetings to appointments for your child, don’t lose sight of taking care of yourself.  If your well is empty, you have nothing to give.  Consider the basics: get enough sleep, find ways to exercise, and take some time for fun.  Maybe you allow yourself to watch a trashy television show.  Maybe you find a way to fit a walk into your routine a few days a week.  There’s no reward for most worn out parent, so take care of yourself.  You will also be modeling good habits for your child.

Lastly, you might benefit from your own psychotherapy as you accompany your child on this journey.  It can be depression to confront your child’s disability.  Having your own psychotherapy can help you move from that sadness to acceptance and advocacy, and even pride and delight in your child’s accomplishments.

 

Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”

 

Photo credit:  Tony Kelly on Flickr