The Dreams of A Parent
Parents, you all have dreams for your children. From the moment your son or daughter was born, you thought, "Maybe he'll be a judge or she will be a doctor. Maybe he'll play sports or receive a full ride to Harvard." We dream, all of us, we dream. Then you watch as little Benjamin or Brianne takes that first step, then two, and it's happening. Who will your child become? The first day of school, that little hand doesn't want to let yours go. And then you are so excited when three weeks later, the little one has made a friend and can't wait to to go to school. A few giant exhales later and life is looking promising. First and second grade completed - you have more dreams for your child. Then the phone call comes. The school would like to talk to you because Brianne is exhibiting some behavioral issues that signal something else may be going on. Or the school has called saying that Benjamin seems to be falling behind and he may need to be tested for a learning disability.
Your Child is Diagnosed... Different
Your dreams and hopes flash by in an instant. The panic sets in but you choose to deal with it as any good parent would. Six months later, the reality has been dealt - it was hard hitting but you managed to parent in excellent fashion. A milestone, a chapter, it's been worked through. Your little one has been diagnosed with a learning disability. There will be accommodations allowed, resources made available. Its been handled, job well done. And...you are no less proud of your child than your were yesterday. Brianne will be OK. Benji is learning to adapt to this new normal. Life continues. It's all been sorted out, all of it, all except one thing --- your very complicated feelings. What about you? Have you dealt with the dreams dashed? Have you dealt with the various stages of fear and grief that while you push them down, threaten to erupt on a daily basis. Sure, you tell yourself it's not that bad. You tell yourself people have more complex issues. But the truth is: you do need to deal with your feelings too. You get to grieve the-might-have-beens that may not be in the plans now. You get to confront the fears that are absolutely normal, by the way. We all want MORE for our children than we had. We all do. That is normal. So in the rush to save, comfort, parent, and protect your child, don't neglect your own "real" feelings that arise after learning of your child's learning difference. There is no need to push them down because you feel guilty about your own selfish wants or about your disappointment. This discovery process can be akin to the grieving process because what you once thought possible, looks very different now. It's OKAY.
Akin to Grief...
I love how Breakthroughs in Learning describes the discovery process. That moment when a parent learns and is forced to accept the new normal. Says the site, it is similar to the five stages of grief.
When parents learn of a child’s learning disability it is not uncommon for them to experience a grieving process similar to the stages of grief described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. While not grieving a death, there is grief surrounding expectations parents may have held for that child.
This is a natural and very forgivable part of human nature. When facing the diagnosis of a learning disability, the best way to handle grief stages is to be aware of them.
So be aware... the five stages of grief as defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are as follows: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It's OK to feel all of these as you learn about your child's learning issues, limitations, and/or need for accommodations so that he or she may overcome and surpass those "limitations". it's OK. You have a right to feel all of these emotions, these very normal emotions. At some point you do need to move to the stage of healthy acceptance. However, often times without resources to deal with the questions and the stress, parents don't move through the stages healthily. That is why Hopes, Dreams, Journey was created and why I chose this site as a platform to share. It is a safe place for parents to ask questions, to safely express the anger and shock, the denial, the fear, and to reach out to others who might be there as a resource for real immediate help. And eventually you will accept this given and be the best parent you can be for your most exceptional and beautiful child. It's all here for you. A parachute in the storm - for whatever you need - whether that be access to providers or just a place to learn more. So visit often, ask the questions, and feel safe to reach out. Maybe at some point, your question will help another and in that way, we can each be a parachute for each other.