More often than not when a child is diagnosed with special needs, parents will naturally become “helicopter or lawnmower parents” i.e. hovering over their children all the time or helping their children to overcome any problem all the time without the children getting the benefits of dealing with any problem on their own. They become bodyguards of their children when they are out in the open, catching them before they fall and praising them without any actual effort.
Understanding their disability and offering help when appropriate is different from overdoing it. Things are harder when the parents only have one child and this can lead to self-pity and the ‘I am not doing enough” mode. The simple rule is you cannot always pave a straight line of success. Children need to draw their own lines and define their own paths with only a little guidance from you.
- Allow your child to take safe risks.
This does not suggest allowing your child to be harmed. Grant your child age-appropriate responsibilities, and allow them to face any related consequences for mistakes or incompletes.
- Give your child appropriate household responsibilities.
Assign your child a chore to do each day. And hold them accountable to complete it. This is an important self-esteem builder.
- Give your child limits and boundaries.
Provide two or three options and let your child choose one. This decision making fosters empowerment. Limiting choices is important because children’s brains can’t handle unlimited options.
- Give your child time to experience the world.
Build “down time” into your child’s day, rather than over-schedule it with activities.
- If your child has trouble in school, don’t give them the answers.
Let your child turn in HIS/HER WORK, not yours.
- Model the behaviours you want.
Demonstrate how to break down large tasks into small steps. Show your children how to successfully solve problems. Your children will continue to learn by watching you, as well as by listening to you.
Parents need to understand that smothering things for their children will never make anything easier or better for them in the long run. Instead, be a natural parent and let your child learn the process of doing and learning things on their own, facing difficulties and challenges for them to develop the skills of functional independence.
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