Thursday, June 13, 2013

Parenting A Child Whose Sibling Is Special Needs

It is so difficult parenting a child with special needs, whether those needs are physical, emotional, or both.  It is heart breaking, and at times joyful.  But whether heart breaking or joyful, it is beyond a full time job and takes tremendous time, energy, and resources.   Every day may center around that child, seeing specialists, Doctors, teachers, etc.  What about the other children in the family?  The siblings are often left to themselves to be more independent, to help with care-taking  to often feel that they are not as important or even as loved as the their disabled sibling.  How does a parent take care of this child along with everything else that has to be done in a day?  First and foremost, the parent has to give themselves permission that they cannot do it alone and not only is it ok to reach out, it is necessary.  Accept the help of family, friends, and volunteers.  Second, and this is vital, spend time alone with your healthy child/children so they have an opportunity to be with you without having to share you with anyone. 

 Do something fun with them, but also save time to talk with them about their world, their life, and how they feel about the family and their role in the family.  I have met many adults over the years who felt a great deal of resentment about their childhood, feeling that they were often overlooked.  Many parents report feeling guilty if they do not include their disabled child in everything.  I tell them, even if all your children were healthy and without any disabilities, it would be important to spend some quality alone time with each child individually.  It is also very helpful to explain to your healthy child what you are doing and why, and get their thoughts and feedback.  Try not to force them to do something they may not be ready to do, such as share a disabled child with their friends.  This behavior needs to come from them.  When allowed some independence of thought and action and when felt heard, many healthy siblings express a great deal of love and compassion toward their disabled sibling.  Treat your child’s disabilities in a matter of fact way so people around you will also take that attitude.  Explain what you need to, but don’t apologize for your disabled child.  Be proud of all your children.  Finally, as much as you do for your children, make sure you take some quality time for yourself and your adult relationships.  Live balanced and be a role model to your children of that healthy balance.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

What is the Difference Between Pampered and Spoiled?

This is a question that I am often asked.  How much is too much when it comes to raising children?  This is a great question.  I am a big believer in pampering children.  After all, one is only a child for such a short time in life.  As both a psychologist and a mother, my rule of thumb has always been that children need to learn to appreciate what they have, they need to learn to share and give to others, and they absolutely need to learn and respect the concept of “no”.  The best way to pamper your child is to spend time with them and enter in to their world.  Play with them, watch shows and movies with them, and talk about what you watched and what was fun about their games.  When my children were little, we spent hours painting, making art with modeling clay, and building towns and forts with every kind of building toys and materials we had available.  We once built a roller coaster on the kitchen counter that had to stay there for over a year because it would fall apart if we started to take it down, and we just had too much fun playing with it to take it down, adults included. 

 Maybe give your young children an allowance, but instead of money, make a checkbook for them and teach them to add and subtract their money and be aware of their balance.  Also, even though it is their money, purchases must be approved by an adult and should not involve the purchase of food (such as unhealthy snacks).   Your child is capable of having an assigned chore even at a young age, but it should be easy and quick.  For example, a 5 or 6 year old can clear their place after dinner and bring their dirty clothes to the hamper or where ever you want them.  Each year, add a privilege and a responsibility.  Remember, they are still children and chores should not take more than 20 minutes on a week day and maybe 30 or 45 on a weekend if they are helping you with a task such as getting your patio area ready for summer.  
Teach your child to say “Thank you”, “Please”, “You’re Welcome”, and “Excuse Me”, and mean it.  These simple social skills will help them all of their lives.  If they are given a gift and will not use that item or already have that item, they should be able to say thank you, and be ready and willing to donate that new item to a good cause for use by children who don’t have as much.  Each birthday and holiday season, have them go through their belongings to donate and make room for new possessions.  Also, most importantly, be able to say “no” when they want something, even if you can afford it.  Your child does not need every electronic game system ever made and they do not need every update.  Your child does not need a cell phone until they are old enough to be by themselves.  If they are walking to and from a bus and you want them to call or text you regarding safety, great, but they don’t need the most up to date version of the latest and greatest smart phone. 
Your child does not need the most expensive clothing your mall sells.  Teach them moderation as they may not have your life style when they grow up, and if they achieve a greater life style than what they grew up within, they will understand the concept of balance and financial responsibility.  Teach your child how to save money, both for something they want and for later, like contributing to a car when they reach that age. 
 As your children age, continue to spend time with them and talk about what they see and hear and ask their opinion.  You will be amazed at how much they have learned from you.  You will know your child is not pampered when you see how grateful they are for what they have; when they accept that something is just not in the budget, and when they don’t ask for the moon on a regular basis.  

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