Updated: Feb 21
Over the years I have talked to many parents, both as a parent and as a professional.
For those of us who have children and young people with additional needs, it is quite common for us to discuss our children and young people with others if asked how they are getting on. As parents it's good to offload, to have someone listen, take an interest and validate our feelings.
Sometimes when we are sharing what our children and young people can do, we also share what they cannot do. At times, when we realise someone is really listening, we list the things they cannot do. As human beings, it is normal to focus on the negatives.
In truth there is nothing wrong with having these conversations, we all need to offload, we all need be heard and our feelings validated. We do it to raise awareness of how lives can be very different for parents of children with additional needs. Sometimes this information needs to be shared with others to keep our children safe and protect them and other times it is to ensure they get the most appropriate support. Sometimes sharing this information is the greatest form of advocacy for our children. And yes, there is no denying that sometimes the sympathy we get from others helps us feel better.
But what has sat with me for a long time is that sometimes we say things in front of our children that they don't really need to hear.
It's almost like a rundown of why they are different to other children, the language used is quite negative and I can't help but think that, sometimes, when sharing these things, parents can sound disappointed. It's like it's a failure, a criticism.
And sometimes when parents are doing this, our children and young people are listening even when we think they aren't. And there are times their siblings can hear it too.
Sometimes these things are repeated in conversation after conversation, with different people, time and time again. Repeated many times in front of our children.
If, every time you speak to another adult, you tell them what our children and young people cannot do, are you reinforcing that belief in the children themselves?
What are you teaching them?
How are you influencing the beliefs they have about themselves?
Are you preventing them from trying again?
If someone asks them to do something, will they turn it down straight away, even if they want to try it again, simply because they have heard you saying they cannot do it? Has it become a limiting belief?
As a parent or caregiver, we have more influence over our children than we could possibly imagine.
I know this to be true because when I was growing up, adults said these things about me. And I believed them.
I know this to be true because I hear adult clients who think they aren't capable of doing something and when I ask why they think they can't, the answer I get is usually because someone said they can't. This limiting belief often stems from childhood and the person who said it is usually a parent.
As a parent, you may be unaware that you do this, so let me ask the following questions:
If, as parents, we waited to share those things out of earshot, could it make a difference to our children and young people?
If reading this has raised your awareness, will you continue to have these conversations in front of your children and young people?
If these beliefs aren't reinforced time and time again, what is the potential for our children and young people to try again at a time that suits them?
If, as a parent, when asked about your child's abilities, you said " they didn't quite manage it this time, but maybe when they are ready they will try again", does it still sound like failure and criticism or does it instead change to belief and encouragement that one day they can?
Next time you have the opportunity to share things with others and your children are with you and they become the topic of conversation, will you be more mindful about what you choose to talk about and the words you choose to use?
Take care x