When he was only 5-1/2 years old, Jack came to my home. It was to be a temporary stay. But 4 years and a sole managing conservatorship later, he is here to stay. And while I am committed to raising Jack and helping him where I can, this task is not without its challenges.
Jack has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and ADHD. A whole host of diagnoses that his behavior, self-esteem, and mood clearly show.
Research shows how effective therapeutic parenting can be in treating children with mental health issues. So parents often become an integral part of the therapy. They can provide therapeutic support for longer periods than the weekly hourly sessions with a professional.
When you are the cure, the downside is that you are the cure.
Your parenting techniques, tone, mood, discipline, and even body posture is often critiqued. Parents are trained by the therapist on how the provider believes you should interact with your child. It can be tricky when you have more than one provider. And more than one opinion on how you should discipline or interact with your child.
When your child has a behavioral problem, you get plenty of sideways looks and judgement. It’s like salt on an open wound when you know some stranger judges your handling of one of the more embarrassing moments of your life as wrong. But it can feel down-right defeating when your interactions with professionals often include a laundry list of what not to do. Especially when nothing seems to work. It’s hard not to take those critiques to heart.
It has taken 4 years to be able to come to terms with this weird, twisted-up dynamic. I give 110% only to be told it isn’t enough. At first, it was soul-crushing. I spent many days thinking I was the worst person in the world.
After a time, I finally began to adjust. It was just how it was going to be. It was hard though, to trust my judgment and opinions. I was critiquing myself a lot. I had unrealistic expectations of what I could really accomplish. Slowly, I am settling into this. I am accepting that others will judge and critique my parenting.
This is a process that involves learning and growing. Most importantly, I am learning to trust myself. And to accept that while sometimes I make mistakes, my focus is 100% on creating the best possible outcome for our whole family. No one can expect more than that.
Its hard being “the cure” for your child. But it's also hard spending the first 5 years of your life facing neglect and trauma. And together, we will keep taking baby steps forward.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.