By Edge Coach, Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, ACC
We all know it takes a village to raise a child. Can you imagine trying to raise your child without one? As parents, we understand the give and take of having a local support network. “Can you pick up this child for me?” “Can I drop that off for you on my way home?” It’s like a dance. We know what it means to ask for help, and rely on each other.
The importance of a village takes on all new meaning – and can be harder to come by – when you have kids with complex needs like ADHD. Sometimes, you’re lucky, and your network embraces your child’s differences. You feel understood and supported.
But sometimes – all too often – your village doesn’t quite know what to do with your child, or with you. You find yourself bouncing from village to village, or sitting on the outside, looking for a place to belong, to fit in. Looking for a place for your child to feel understood, empowered or cherished.
For the first 10 years of my life as a parent, I was a village hopper. Some were more supportive than others, but none lasted very long. I wanted other parents and schools to understand my complex children; but, truth be told, I didn’t really understand them that well, myself.
I mean, I thought I did. But I didn’t fully grasp the extent of what I needed to do, as a parent, to effectively support my children – to set them up for a lifetime of success.
Now don’t get me wrong. I was dutifully “treating” my children’s challenges with therapies and special programs. I was trying everything I could think of to help them, building scaffolding all over the place to support my kids.
But the biggest change happened for my family when I accidentally learned the greatest secret of effective parenting:
The changes my kids needed most started with me!
Everything shifted when I started to create some scaffolding for myself – to get some help for me.
And I don’t mean 5-10 minute conversations with my child’s therapists at the end of her sessions. I mean clear, direct support and training for myself.
It turns out, I had to learn to really understand the challenges my children were facing, and get strategies for coping and communicating more effectively – with everyone! I had to shift my approach to raising children with complex needs.
What I never expected, less than a year into my journey, was that my 9 year old child, with Dyslexia, anxiety & ADHD, would be clear enough to say: “Thank you, mommy. Things are so much better around here.” I kid you not! As I learned new skills, I became a much better parent. And it wasn’t rocket science. It was a solid combination of education & communication that made a world of difference!
I wish I could tell you that in 1 year I turned my entire family around. Or that my husband immediately saw the wisdom of all that I was bringing to the family, and jumped right on the back of my band-wagon. Not so much. At least, not right away.
The truth is, it took him a while. He was quite comfortable denying that ADHD (including his own) was largely responsible for the challenges we were facing. He started changing his attitude when he couldn’t deny, anymore, what a difference my approach was making in our kids’ lives.
I can’t tell you when it changed, precisely, but I can tell you this: all it takes is one parent to begin to turn the ship! And while it’s much easier when you’re both on board the same ship – or even in the same harbor – it’s actually not critical. One parent can save the life of a child with ADHD. One parent can turn the tides.
That one parent can be you.
And most of us need support in order to do it. Whatever else you believe about your “reality” right now – you might think it’s too late, or you need your spouse on board, or there’s just not enough money, or you’re not sure what to do or try –the choice is up to you!
If you make a commitment to get the support you need – to get training along with coaching or therapy, or whatever else it is you think you need – then you can make real change for your family! Things will improve, dramatically, when you invest in yourself for the good of your child.
Your child’s future is a wondrous world of opportunity. What village do you need – does your child need for you to have – to set her up for success? What are you doing now to assure him independence later on?
We’ve created a unique “cyber-village” at ImpactADHD.com for parents like us, parent like you, who want their kids to thrive, and aren’t always so sure what they need to do to help make that happen. It’s given us, and thousands of others like us a safe, a solid place to help our kids become the adults we know they can become.
But if you don’t get help with us – we urge you – for the sake of your child, your family, and yourself — get help somewhere. There is no need for you to wander, lost and alone. FIND the village that understands and will support you and your family. And take advantage of that incredible give-and-take that happens when we parents lean on each other.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, ACC is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, dedicated to helping parents all over the world raise confident, successful children with ADD/ADHD. ImpactADHD programs are offered online and on the phone so that all parents can access critical support. A writer, parenting coach and public speaker, Elaine is an advocate and trainer for parents of children with “complex” needs. A national expert for the Making Moments education campaign for parents, Elaine is first and foremost the mother of 3 complex children in an ADHD Family of 5.