Posts Tagged ‘transitions’
When my first child was born, I wasn’t prepared for the experience of my heart being wrenched out during the moments of learning to “let go.” The first time my husband and I went out for dinner and left the baby with grandparents, I was excited for about twenty minutes. Then I started wondering, “I wonder if he’s crying? (he was going through the colicky stage), did I leave enough breast milk? Will they remember to change his diaper?” and so on.
The first time I let go of my toddler’s hand to take his first steps, he faceplanted hard on the carpet. When the second and third kid came along, I was much more cautious about letting go and waited until I thought they could master the walking thing. Some of that wisdom comes from experience the second time around, and some of it comes from being patient and knowing the time when the kid was ready to master it on his/her own. That’s the fine line of parenting and letting go–figuring out that magic formula and timing.
We live in an era of Helicopter Parenting–parents who hold the reins of parenting so tight that the kid has little opportunity to learn on their own and make mistakes. But here’s the thing, letting go is a vital part of the parenting transition that enables a child to achieve maximum growth in all areas of life.
When my oldest son was around five, we were at a McDonalds (I know, I know) playland and he asked for an ice cream cone. I gave him the cash and he went up to the counter to order his ice cream. Another parent who was with me was flabbergasted.
“You let him order by himself?”
My oldest son is deaf, and from an early age I wanted him to be independent and competent just like any other kid. I stood back and watched as he ordered his own ice cream. He came triumphantly walking back happily devouring his cone. The other parent continued to order for her deaf child for YEARS after that. She just could not let go and allow her kid to struggle with the ordering process. It was far easier for her to speak for her child and do the ordering.
The struggle is part of the process. In fact, it’s probably one of the most valuable aspects of the parenting gig–letting your child navigate the world and the challenges on their own is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your kid. The letting go stuff is hard. It’s so much easier to do for, or hold on–and wait for a better time or more maturity–before letting go. Yet, by letting go, our kids gain skills and experiences that they wouldn’t have if we didn’t hover so darn hard over them.
The first time I let a child take off with the car and a newly-minted driver’s license my heart was in my throat. And no, it did not become easier with each child because I was reliving all my fears, doubts, and scary thoughts with each child. But the only way around the fear of letting go is to…let go.
And the first time they leave home…oh my…that’s the ultimate letting go.
Letting go often means giving up control, and that can be so darned tough at times. Here are some tips for navigating those parenting transitions that involve letting go:
Shift Your Perspective:
Instead of seeing the letting go process as a loss of control, focus on the gain from it: increased independence, learning, and growth. Each time you “let go” and allow your child to experience something new and unknown, both of you grow in the process. Yes, your child may make mistakes or chose poor outcomes as a result, but the lessons learned can strengthen both of you. You can actually stunt your child’s growth by holding back instead of letting go.
Connect with Other Parents:
One of the easiest ways to handle the letting go process is to connect and talk with other parents who have been there or are going through the same process. You will often find that “hindsight advice” is spot on and this will help ease the parenting transition. Knowing that you aren’t alone in the “letting go” process can be comforting.
Connect with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adults:
When you’re early in the parenting journey with your Deaf/Hard of hearing child, it can be difficult to see into the future years because you’re just trying to get through the day to day stuff. Take the opportunity to meet Deaf/Hard of hearing adults. This is a wonderful way to get questions answered, to see different perspectives and experiences, and to gain knowledge that would otherwise be difficult to find on your own. Take some time to scour the web for stories of Deaf/Hard of Hearing adults in various professions and activities and share them with your child.
Karen Putz is the mom of Dave, Ren, and Steven. She is the Co-Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infusion at Hands & Voices. For fun, she walks on water.
My son passed his Universal Newborn Hearing Screening at birth. Three years later he was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. Like so many other families, I had no idea what to expect or what to do. I had concerns about my son’s lack of speech and had asked our pediatrician for pretty close to a year if she thought the he might be delayed. She told me to stop worrying – he was a boy and a second child. He was just on his own path, I didn’t need to worry. Just before his 3rd birthday, his playschool teacher suggested that maybe it was time to take him for a hearing test. We had been talking about his speech over the course of the year, and the past few weeks, due to a bad cold, it seemed like he wasn’t hearing anything. We took him to an ENT, where his hearing test results were “abysmal”. We were told he had fluid in his ears, so tubes were put in and two weeks later we were to go back for further tests. But, while his hearing improved a little once the fluid was gone, we were told he would need to wear hearing aids to access what hearing he did have. We were stunned, and excited, and overwhelmed, and unsure, and about a million other emotions all at the same time.
We were fortunate, we found the resources and support we needed, and we are good now. Today, at the age of eight, he’s an energetic and athletic child, who loves to read Harry Potter books and play hockey. The sky is the limit and he is in no way defined solely by his hearing loss.
Here are some tips I’ve gathered to take the “scary” out of times of transition:
Taking the Scary out of Transition
Transitions seem magnified when you have a child who is deaf or hard of hearing. While transitions can be good or bad, planned or unexpected, in all cases as parents we are shifted out of our comfort zone and we must re-examine how we fit into the new situation.
The word transition often becomes intertwined with anxiety as your child moves through the education system and out into the world. There is so much to think about. Will therapy support remain the same? What will happen if we change schools or move to a different city? How will my child adjust to middle school? Our district has a new speech-language pathologist, will she understand my son? Just when it seems you have things set up the way you like, along comes a change.
What if there was a way to make transitions less about being scary and more about recognizing a growth opportunity?
One of the reasons transition are so scary is that we are afraid of the unknown. So, make the unknown, known. Stand back and take a moment to acknowledge your worry and how you are feeling. Then, when you are ready, figure out what it is you need to do prepare yourself for the transition. Read books, ask questions, join a support group, spend time walking around your new neighborhood, find real information (engaging in gossip and rumors doesn’t help). Do whatever it is you need to do to get your questions and concerns answered.
Prepare/involve your child
As a parent of a child with a special need it is easy to become engrossed in advocating for their needs and forgetting to include them in the process. Of course, how much you involve your child depends on their age, but even the youngest child can be involved in transitions. After all, they are the one most directly involved. Some ways in which you can do this area:
Have your child visit the new school.
Meet teachers/new team before the beginning of the school year.
Have your child either write down or tell you what they think their needs are.
Attend IEP or team meetings.
Nothing is written in stone
Despite your best intentions sometimes things do not work out the way you planned. Maybe moving your child from individual speech therapy to group sessions was a move backwards for their confidence; or the support services at the college your child chose to attend are not working out as promised. But, and this is where preparing yourself come into play, no matter what your original decision was, there is always an alternative way.
Give it Time
The world today is a place of instant gratification – on demand movies and same day shipping are the norm. But, change takes time to adjust to and it is important that you give both yourself and your child the time needed to adjust to the change. It is unrealistic to walk into a new school, or to adjust to a new therapy schedule in the first week or two. Try to be patient and see how your child grows into the change.
Develop a Support Network
“Change is the only constant in life,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus; so you might as well get used to it. Transitioning is one part of this journey that is called parenthood. So, find a group (or groups) that you can tag along for the ride with. There is always someone out there who has gone through the very same situation that you are facing. Post a question to a Face Book group. Look for someone in your community that has experienced a similar situation. Ask your child’s audiologist or SLP if they know a family that you can connect with. Find an organization that you can connect with. There is strength in numbers, and if you can enter a transition with others at your side that takes a whole lot of scary out of the change!
Krystyann Krywko is a hearing loss educator and writer who provides resources and support for families who are raising children who are deaf or hard of hearing. You can check out more of her work at www.kidswithhearingloss.org; or click here (hyperlink: www.kidswithhearingloss.org/go/welcome/) to receive her free eBook, 5 Emotional Sticking Points of Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss.