The Hands & Voices annual Leadership Conference is always my safe haven. One year’s theme, “Finding the Balance Within” was exactly what I needed. In my role with Hands &Voices, I have spoken to over 200 moms around Oregon. I have seen marriages stressed, mothers feeling overwhelmed and siblings trying to figure out where they fit in with all the appointments and worry associated with having a sibling with hearing loss.
Studies show that 95% of parents of deaf/hard of hearing children have no history or experience with hearing loss. Having a newborn in itself can be stressful. When your newborn is diagnosed with hearing loss or deaf+, the diagnosis can challenge many areas of your life and create a strain on relationships, marriages, and can send parents spiraling in all directions as they face this new reality.
Parents of school aged kiddos face their own levels of stressors as they ensure the educational and emotional health of their child. I know three sets of parents who have had to leave Oregon to find the right school for their child.
Have more fun… it’s what I have been telling myself for the last 8 months, and what I heard in the opening plenery of the Leadership Conference. I know I need to pick up my camera and do what I love to do. I know I need to spend more time with my friends. I see that many of us parents are not feeding our souls; we are not having fun.
Getting back to who we are, not our labels, not our IEP challenges; but who we are, our being. It’s really hard to have fun and be ourselves, especially in the beginning of the process. I have spoken with parents of school aged kiddos who feel if they let their guard down or relax for one moment, their child’s communication will falter, their school life could suffer or their emotional well-being will dwindle.
We forget that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, if we don’t get back to who we are, the individual within, we won’t have what we need to advocate and support our child. We also forget to ask for help. Our Guide By Your Side program and chapters are here to assist you in supporting your child in school, at home, and on the playground! Those of you new to the process don’t know what you should know and you certainly don’t know where you need help. Parents of school-aged kiddos have been attending IEP meetings for awhile and may not consider the benefits of having someone else at the table or just having another (trained) parent to talk to.
What do you need that you don’t have? What would a balanced life look like to you? How do you feel when you lay down at night? If you don’t know then tonight when you go to bed take a deep breath and listen. That is your authentic feeling. Do you need to make any changes?!
So as spring slowly approached and the days lengthen, we hope that you also slow down, set aside your worries and challenges and enjoy the warmth of the sun that is just around the corner! Watching kids play outside and in the pool is a great reminder to get a little more ‘child-like’ and have fun. So do that. Go jump in a pool, run through some sprinklers, lay in the grass looking up at the stars, and eat a smore. It’s time for all of us to recharge and remember that we are parents first; parents to kids who just want to be kids.