By: Howard Termo, EIS
Parents of children with developmental needs tell of experiences that are sometimes hard to bear. Some of their stories seem shocking; others are poignant or sad, while others are uplifting and instructive. Though parents express varying reactions to their experiences, many report they feel at least a little better after sharing them out loud. If you can share it, you can bear it, says Dr. Dan Siegel, author of Parenting From The Inside Out. PEAS believes this to be true. Here are two stories that in the telling opened doors to building resilience.
In a parent support group a mother spoke of bringing her boys to a family friendly restaurant for dinner. Her older boy has challenges with social interaction and communication. Her younger boy wants very much to play with his big brother. At the end of their meal, while waiting for dessert to be served, the boys playfully began interacting using sounds. Mom was thrilled but needed to keep a lid on the sound level. The next thing she knew, dessert had arrived … in a To-Go box, accompanied by the check! She was shocked at the time, but later in telling it to the group she couldn’t keep from bursting out laughing. The whole group, aghast at what she had related, burst out laughing with her. Feeling safe and supported she shared more about her experience and the strength she’s been building.
On a PEAS visit a dad related how his family had attended a party at the home of his older son’s classmate. Dad and mom split coverage, she participating with big brother, and he supporting their younger son who is easily overstimulated. Reading his son’s cues they eventually found their way outdoors where they could freely move about. They settled at the swing set where his son was happy and soothed. However, as soothing as swinging was for his son, Dad felt sad and isolated. There he was, pushing his son in the rain, apart from the rest of his family and apart from everyone else. He then noticed that someone was standing beside him. A man from the party had joined him to keep him company. This man said that he too has a child with developmental needs. Later, in relating the story, dad shared his feelings of sadness, as well as his gratefulness for the kindness and company of the other dad, and for the opportunity to talk about the experience.
Sad, shocking, funny, instructive; parents take from their experiences a range of reactions. Sometimes their feelings are conflicted or they are unsure of how they feel. Often they reflect during or after sharing and may realize something new. What they may not realize though is that they showed real resilience in being able to share about something so hard to bear. This is resilience that can be built upon.
If you know of a family who could use some emotional support as they navigate the life of having a child in developmental services, do let them know about PEAS. No matter how they are feeling, even a small dose of support and information can make a difference.