As a parent of a child with special needs, "seeing my daughter" was one of the first things I learned. Simply 'seeing' her meant catching a glimpse of her unique character in everyday interactions. While it is every mother's deepest hope that her child will flourish and be happy, it is easy to get caught up in the obstacles that prevent this from happening. The demands of caring for our young ones can feel overwhelming, but it's essential for our mental well-being to train our minds to go beyond the surface. God blesses mothers with the unique ability to recognize potential in their children even when others fail to do so. Allow that sight to serve as your guide.
"Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always." (Phil 4:8). I can speak from experience that this is easier said that done.
Below are a few pratical ways to help us see our children as God sees them.
Tip #1 - Focus on Strengths and Interests
Pay special attention to the things that spark their interest. Every child, no matter what their limitation, has special talents and passions. Special talents are a child's innate skills or capabilities. These could include attention to detail, a great memory, an aptitude for music or art, or an amazing ability to communicate with animals. These talents reveal the child's inner world and unique style of digesting and engaging with their surroundings. On the other hand, passions are the things that excite and intrigue children. It could be a passion for trains, stories, or space. These hobbies bring delight and contentment to the youngster and motivate them to explore, learn, and overcome obstacles.
These skills and passions are much more important for special needs children. They can help children communicate and socialize by connecting them to the world around them. Engaging in their passions can also give special needs children a sense of mastery and competence, which boosts self-esteem and resilience. It can also be useful to help children cope with stress and adversity. We can aid in their growth and gain insight into who they are by recognizing and encouraging these traits.
Tip #2 - Create Opportunities for Expression
Allow them plenty of time and space to share their thoughts and feelings in a nurturing setting. This could involve various forms of expression such as art, music, dance, or play. Providing a safe environment for our children with special needs to express themselves might shed light on facets of their character that could be hidden in more formal settings.
"Parents’ understanding of the importance or nature of play is essential in creating nurturing play experiences for children. Particularly for children with disabilities whose engagement in play occupations could be limited due to impairments in play skills, environmental barriers, or both. Parent knowledge on developmental aspects of play and adapting play could thus make a difference." – PLOS One
Tip #3 - Observe and Listen
It's necessary that we pay special attention to our child's reactions, preferences, and methods of interacting with the world by simply observing and listening to them. These details can shed light on their unique personality and help us comprehend their perspective on the world. There were numerous occasions when I was absolutely overwhelmed by my daughter's high emotions, unable to figure out what was causing her unexpected meltdowns. Witnessing what she was going through and feeling helpless in the face of it was an unsettling and heartbreaking experience. However, an important turning point in my understanding arrived when I accepted the notion that her behaviors were not arbitrary or unfounded—they were her method of communicating, a reaction to something happening internally or in her environment. I realized that her emotions and behaviors, like anybody else's, were impacted by her experiences, needs, and perceptions of the world around her.
Tip #4 - Celebrate Small Achievements
Recognize and applaud their child's progress, no matter how minor it may appear. Celebrating our children's triumphs, no matter how big or small, is critical; a simple "good job!" can go a long way. Making a bigger
deal out of their triumphs with prizes like a celebratory slice of cake, on the other hand, adds an extra layer of excitement and acknowledgment. Bringing the entire family together for an unplanned celebration not only honors the child but also nurtures family relationships and produces lasting memories. A family culture of celebration shows all our children that their achievements are valued and appreciated.
Tip #5 - Encourage Social Interactions
Sometimes the idea of new social experiences can be overwhelming for us, and it's OK to decline some invitations. However, we should continue to facilitate opportunities for our children to engage in social interactions with peers and supportive adults. Their social preferences and personalities will be shown by how they behave in social situations.
While our focus remains on our children, these tips will indirectly, help us to adjust the way we think. As we continue this journey of motherhood, we must remember to consider our own needs as well: and one such need is mental and emotional stability. When it comes to raising extraordinary children, the subtle relationship between stress and perception is extensive. Our thoughts have a strong influence on how we understand and react to the environment around us, which is especially true when it comes to raising special needs children.
When faced with challenges our initial perception can either increase our stress or assist us to handle the circumstance with perseverance. Parenting an extraordinary child presents unique obstacles, and it's easy to become stressed when we focus on the difficulties rather than the enjoyments and distinctive talents of our children. However, if we make a deliberate effort to change our perspective, we might begin to see our children in a different light, one that emphasizes their potential above their limitations.