When I was asked if I would write a short blog post sharing what I am learning on my parenting journey I was not sure whether it was with a view to parenting a child with additional needs or just 'normal' parenting. You see, my youngest child, Andrew, has Down's Syndrome and he has two big sisters. I jotted down some thoughts about parenting and came to the conclusion that whilst parenting a child with additional needs does sometimes result in extra and more intensive demands, that essentially, what I would have to say to a parent of a child with special needs would be the same as to a parent of typical children.
So, I have written these tips as reminders to myself to be the sort of parent I would aspire to be!
Obvious, I know, but never underestimate the value of cuddles and hugs with your children.
There is rarely an absolutely right or wrong way of doing anything when it comes to parenting. Go with your instinct. Do listen to other perspectives- just don't get bogged down in them!
Don't beat yourself up if in retrospect you don't think you made the best decision- move on and learn for next time.
Estimate your departure time for any given event and then aim to leave half of an hour before that - you might just get away when you should! Being late increases everyone's stress levels.
Listen to your children, really listen, not the 'mmm-uhuh' listening, but the 'I am looking at you and absorbed by what you are saying' listening.
The old adage of 'spend time not money on your children' is something that we all need to be reminded of, again and again. Get the balance right between being and doing.
Embrace your child's personality. Enjoy the positives and even their challenging and difficult traits, there is often something useful to be drawn out.
No comparing! No, no! Don't go there! The more you embrace your child and their uniqueness and accept their gifts and interests, the easier it will be to rise above the temptation to make comparisons.
Be consistent with whatever approaches you use to establish acceptable boundaries with your children. There are books galore on different parenting strategies and believe me, I have read many of them. I love reading them. But at the end of the day it essentially boils down to being fair and consistent!
Laugh with your children. Joke with them. Have fun with them. Love them. Just as they are.
I have been blessed with three lovely children each with their own personality and gifts. I do make mistakes in how I parent them: but children are very forgiving, especially to their parents. Which is a huge relief!