This is day two in a 31 day series to loving sensory parenting. You can see all the posts and follow along here.
Day 2: Building a Support System.
One of things about having an atypical child is that it often makes you feel alone and isolated. So today we are talking about a support system (we like to call it our tribe, our village, because ya know it does take a village).
Before we became parents our adoption agency was very thorough on making sure we had a support system. At the time we thought we had a large support system in place, but you know what happened? After we brought our daughter home, our support system crumbled. As we began having more and more challenges with our daughter it literally felt like we no longer had anyone in our life.
Raising an atypical kid challenges your ability to fit in and connect with other parents. Let alone finding people who understand your “unusual” challenges. So we (mostly me since I was a stay at home Mom, Sensory Dad got to leave everyday and be around adults) had some building to do.
There was a good 2 years where I was crushed and on my own. But then I decided I would just start trying things and I got completely out of my comfort zone and tried activities that looked interesting. And you know what happened. I FOUND MY TRIBE! And I can tell you that my new tribe is way more amazing than my old tribe!
So how’d I find it? I followed these steps:
-ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education). Years ago, I never would have tried something like this but I signed us up for one of their classes and jumped in. I was terrified. The first half of the class we played with our kids in this amazing classroom, the second half of the class we separated to another room for parent education. These classes, were the best thing I have done since becoming a parent. They were so good for Miss Sensory to be around more kids her age. They helped her gradually learn to separate and be ready for school. They were so good for me! I got to talk with other mom’s!
One of the years we did classes, I started asking more questions about behavior. (This was pre-diagnosis). Since, I had learned that this was a great place to bring up the tough challenges about parenting. I would privately ask our parent educator about things like head banging and aggression. One of the things she told me was that 90% of parents will never get me (She had raised a son with Autism who at that time was a thriving college freshman, yay for success stories!). But her statement explained why no one else was complaining about how hard it was just to change a diaper and that it took two hours get their child dressed. That explained why I felt so alone and isolated. But there were a few diamonds in the rough. There are other amazing parents out there who have been graced with understanding and if you find parents of typical kids who will listen to all your crazy stories. And still be dumbfounded that your child doesn’t sleep and they still want to be your friend. Hold on those dear ones. On the very first day of class, I met another mom who our kids would just always be playing by each other and I said a real life comment to her one time and she totally got it! Don’t be afraid to test the waters with a new friend. Vent a little about a challenge you are having with a child. It’s a great way to see if this person will look at you like your crazy (if so they probably aren’t worth your time) or if they come alongside you like a compadre and it completely resonates with them (don’t let them go).
-Mom/Kid Activities. (I would also here about all the local activities at ECFE). But we would try attending, Mommy and Me Gymnastics, Mommy and Me Soccer etc. There were times where all she would do was run the perimeter of the room and not stop and actually do the class but we tried and didn’t go back to some of those.
I haven’t tried any of these but I know in other areas there are a lot of Mom groups at churches or playgroups. There’s a ton of other Mom and child activities (mom and me soccer etc), where you can meet other mom’s as well. Search out those and give them a try, you never know what might happen. And if it’s horrible, don’t go again!
Not everything you do will probably lead to lifelong friendships. But keep trying until you do find those who you can connect with and do support you.
If you are in a season right now where it feels like there isn’t anyone but you, I know how hard that is. Challenge yourself to be ok with that. You can make the best of it. Do things you love, on your own and find your own happiness. During my years of aloneness, I wished I had a good friend I could just go do some shopping with. Instead of wallowing in it I would go by myself and just enjoy the time getting to shop anyways! Make your own joy, be your own support if needed and work towards finding your tribe.
Day 3, I will be writing more on support systems and how they help you love sensory parenting.