Question: How to keep the peace at family gatherings?
Advice: Over the years, I have had families of special needs children bring up the topic of “ridiculous and insensitive things family members say”. I could add to the lists of those families with many of my own anecdotes and stories, some of which I will share with you in this column as well as some of the stories of clients. I think the most important component to remember is to smile and laugh to yourself. It’s not about you or your child, it’s more about the family member’s own discomfort.
One client shared with me something her mother-in-law said to her special needs daughter who has many challenges. Her daughter was feeling very depressed because she is aware of her deficits and yearns to be a typical child. My client was relaying this story about her mother-in-law who tends to be insensitive to her. My client stated, “she was feeding her all of this junk about getting her driver’s license and then becoming a massage therapist” “Can you believe it”? Yes, sadly I can. Or the aunt who says “I don’t understand why you’re so stressed all the time, the kids are so sweet and lovely. What’s your problem”? Or better yet, giving them food and drink at holiday gatherings and not listening to what you want as the parent. I have no problem stating my needs and the needs of my child. At any rate, these family members certainly don’t live our lives or realize the level of coaching and micro-managing that we all do. The best answer at times is not to get into it if your gut tells you that it’s going to be fruitless. There may be opportunities where you can educate them and assist them in understanding. Another story that comes to mind is the countless times there were comments made regarding putting the children into a group home as if it was a death sentence. I was made to feel badly. However, I thank God that I am in the field (and know in my core) that the best place for my children will be in a group home. There is no one who will be available to care for them. At least I know that they will stand a chance of having a fruitful life and be around other special needs adults when their time comes. Trust your own instincts when it comes to your child or children. No one knows them better than you!
Robin Newman LCSW PC
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2013 Magazine