Sometimes parenting is hard. We all kind of knew that. But you don't really know until you're in the midst of it. The middle of the night wake ups. The rolling on the floor tantrums. The ten different pants to get the ones that feel just right. The deep, soul-searching conversations and the questions that sometimes don't have answers.
It's especially hard when you're parenting children with special needs. Children take a lot out of you, but special needs children take until you feel like you don't have any more to give. Until you know you don't have any more to give.
And it's even harder when your child with special needs is not accepted as a child with special needs. You know the line, "Oh your child is SO bright; life must be all sunshine and roses and easy." Maybe they don't say that but there is a side of raising a gifted child that no one sees. No one can quite understand the intensity if they don't experience it daily.
Some days it feels hard. Harder than it should be.
You can feel so alone. Your child just doesn't fit. Even in a playgroup with children their same age, it's just a little off. The things that work for other kids, for other parents just don't work.
It's just so hard.
I'm hear to say I understand. I've been there. I am there. And while I'm struggling through it as well, I've found some things that help.
Here are 5 ways to help you fight the hard feelings:
1. Find a support network.
If you feel like you don't fit in, you're probably right. If the playgroups or parents group you're in doesn't feel like it's meeting your needs, keep looking! Try to find a local organization for parents of specifically gifted children. If there isn't one locally, consider starting one yourself. You can also seek out a long-distance friend with children like yours. The internet makes our world bigger and smaller at the same time. Some of our best friends live in other cities and states around the country.
2. Educate Yourself
Sometimes it helps to have an explanation for why your child might be doing something. It helpsto know that they really are "normal" (whatever that means!). I can't count the number of times people have come to me expressing relief, gratitude, peace- someone who finally gets what it is like! While you may not have a supportive local community, there are many resource at your hands. Read books about being gifted, join an online web community, or find blogs of other gifted parents. The more you know, the better able to parent your child.
3. Advocate for Your Child- and Yourself
Most people don't really understand what being gifted actually means. Sometimes, it's as simple as educating people. In a kind and affirming way, let them know who your child is and why. You don't have to say "My child is gifted, so...." You can simply let them know your child has certain needs and preferences- just like we all do. Child deserve respect for who they are just the same as anyone else, and it's up to you as their parent and advocate to make sure they get it.
4. Give Yourself Grace
We all have good days and bad days. On the days that are long, give yourself grace to fail and grace to move on. Don't hold on to your bad days. Ask for forgiveness, learn from your mistakes and make peace with the parent that you are in the process of becoming.
5. Look for the Blessings
Sometimes in the midst of parenting difficulties, it's helpful to look not at what's missing but at what's right in front of you. Yes, your freezer may be full of underwear from your highly sensitive child but your nightstand is also decorated with her hand-picked flowers. For everything that frustrates you, find five things that delight you. Write them down if you need to in order to remember.
What other ways have you found to cope with the challenges of parenting a gifted child? I'd love to hear your thoughts!