To be a parent is to be the ultimate go-to person for your child. This includes activities such as bandaging hurt fingers and hurt feelings, explaining to your child the ways of the world, preparing him or her for the first day of school. These are the types of skills we learn on the job as we grow on our way to being the best parent for our children.
But what happens when you have no answers? What happens when your child is either so confounding or so puzzling or so unexpected that you find yourself coming up empty in terms of your understanding, coping skills or knowing what to do?
It may feel like a little bit of failure to have to ask for outside help. After all, you are the ultimate go-to person, right? Why does your neighbor seem to have it all together but you are strung out each and every day? Asking for outside help may actually feel a little shaming, as if you are coming up short on your parenting quotient (PQ?). The truth is, asking for help is empowering. Raising children requires a village but atypical children require an army. And you are just the perfect person to be the army commander. So it may be time to start recruiting candidates to join forces with you!
START THE SEARCH
Who are the experts in your community? In previous times, young parents would turn to their parents, friends, or relatives for support and advice. But due to the increasing amount of atypical conditions that children are having these days, your typical go-to resources may not be as helpful as you’d like.
ASK THE INTERNET
Increasingly parents are turning to the internet for immediate advice and guidance.
This is not usually the best idea although probably by now, all parents are googling for information all the time. A few reasons the internet will neither enlighten or satisfy you:
1. Internet is like the Wild West, there are too many websites and too much conflicting information, chances are you might loose much sleep over someone’s post about their child that actually has nothing to do with what you are going through. Even trustworthy sites do not reflect their understanding of YOUR child.
2. Your understanding of what your child is going through can be colored by what you read. Your ideas about what your child is going through might not fully fit a professional description. For example, many children can look like they have ADD or ADHD because others issues are impacting them.
3. Commercial aspects of many websites can be long on description and glossy pictures but short on scientific evidence and factual results. Buyer beware! Do not fall for the one treatment cures all approach to your child. To date, there is no one treatment that legitimately can treat autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, processing disorders, sensory disorders and mood disorders.
START WITH THE FACTS AND ASK THE QUESTIONS
What do you want? Are you looking for information, treatment or parent support? Maybe you are not sure? One thing is for sure, when a parent asks for help, chances are they have worn out all their avenues of coping and their children are continuing to be mysteries.
DR RITA RECOMMENDS:
Start with your pediatrician and ask for a referral to a specialist that will see your child, there are quite a lot of specialists to choose from. Be sure to choose a specialist that works with your child’s age group. For example, very young children (under 5) should be seen by specialists with experience with this group. Many regional centers will see children from infancy but parents may not be satisfied with the outcome of regional testing. Make sure you are satisfied with the information that you receive. If not, keep looking. It is important that you receive the following:
1. Clarity: even if your child doesn’t meet criteria for a diagnosis, you do want more information about how your child ticks and learn more about his or her condition or issues.
2. Recommendations: you want solid advice on how to work with the issues that you identified when you first came to this specialist (the specialist did ask you to identify specific issues, right? )
3. Resources: your specialists should either be providing you with resources or leading you to resources in your community that will take you to the next step on your parenting journey with your atypical child.
Best of luck in reaching out and asking for help! You will become a better parent for doing so.