It’s taken me a while to write on this topic. I’m not the type to want to throw anybody under the bus. For the sake of this topic, I think it is important to talk about the reactions and realities of family and friends in your world. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not alone in the struggle with family and friends who just aren’t supportive…they simply don’t “get it”.
SPD is called the “hidden” disorder for a reason. It is neurological in nature. It’s chemistry of the brain. There may be no physical manifestations present. But there is always behavior.
This is a big one. When behavior is present, you’re going to hear all kinds of nasty things said about your parenting. Lord knows, we’ve heard them all. Family and even some friends will comment on your parenting ability:
“You’re too indulgent. You need to discipline that child!”
“She’s running the house. You’re going to regret that parenting style one day.”
“There’s a diagnosis for everything nowadays”
There’s nothing “wrong” with him.”
“Boys will be boys”
“Every kid has tantrums”
And the implication is…it’s just you looking for something to excuse her behavior.
There’s always the unspoken things too. The rolling of eyes, the judging silence, the skeptical implications, the awkward glances, the triangulated conversations with others who have clearly been talking about the situation…without you. Gossip. Rumors. Judging.
It’s incredibly difficult when you find yourself on the receiving end of comments that are negative in nature and implications never-ceasing. In my own case, because I was the one who pursued a diagnosis, I have been made the target in my hubby’s family. When they couldn’t get to me, my child is now being “grilled” and questioned on a regular basis.
I could go on…but quite frankly, the realities of trust broken in families over a special needs child is all-too-true. Friendships can break…or at least, people you thought were your friends. Misunderstanding and judging. It happens over and over to Moms and Dads with special needs kids. It’s sad, really. These families need more-than-your-average support and understanding. They are already dealing with so much. But the reality stays true.
I want to suggest a few quick strategies that our family has used to cope with extended family or friends who just don’t get it:
1. Mom and Dad are a unified team. Period. We agreed that we will talk about everything that’s happening on the extended family front and we make a unified decision about whatever the issue is about. No arguing or debating about it. We support each other completely, especially in front of judgy family members.
2. We each deal with our own extended families. His n’ Hers. He deals with “his” people, I deal with “mine”. Very important to avoid those nasty SIL and DIL situations that can easily erupt.
3. We have healthy boundaries with unhealthy, toxic people in our life. We limit time spent with unhealthy individuals. We set limits on “how” we interact. This can look different for each individual family, but is necessary. Talk about your boundaries and implement them.
4. Be consistent! Don’t be surprised when those same family members “push back” your boundaries or try to separate the two of you! It’ll happen, believe me! Especially if they’re unhappy with the arrangement. Whatever you do, be consistent.
5. Limit information: In our home, we remember that information is power. When we have information, we can use it to hurt or to help. If you know a particular family member is given to “hurt”, then you limit information.
I’m sorry to say that sometimes I have to tackle a topic that is hard for families. This just happens to be a reality in our home right now. I know that with lots of prayer, God can intervene and make a way. I trust that you will continue to pray for your family members who just don’t get it, regardless of their behavior. Pray for your own hearts too, that bitterness doesn’t take root, when the things they say…just hurt. Blessings to each of you, today, who have also felt the sting of words from your families. My heart is with you.