Guest post by Sarah Turner
No one walks through the valley of dealing with a disability more than a parent who watches his or her child struggle. Having dealt with Cerebral Palsy all of my life my parents and I have had a long journey to get to the relationship we have now, My teen years were especially rocky and in sharing these tips, I hope to help you navigate the choppy waters of helping your teen reach the independence I know you all so greatly desire and have a meaningful relationship in the midst of it.
- Pick your Battles. My daddy is fond of saying this, and I think it especially applies to having an open and successful relationship with anyone with a disability, but especially a teen. With a disability your own body is fighting against you. Literally, everything is a battle, so when they want to do something that seems a little crazy (dye their hair purple, get a nose piercing, dye their hair AGAIN) maybe let them. They feel like everyone is looking at them, maybe doing those things makes them feel like they have a little bit of control over why people look, and what they see. Sometimes doing those things feels like winning a battle for your self-confidence. DISCLAIMER: I’m not advocating letting your teen do whatever they want (get a million piercings/tattoos) I’m just saying maybe you can help them find ways of creatively expressing themselves when it comes to style so that they feel like they have a little bit of a “say” on how much their disability effects them emotionally.
- Celebrate the Small Things. My mama is the ROCKSTAR of celebrating the small things. Sometimes doing things everyone else does without thinking require extra effort when you have a disability so even tiny things deserve a mini party. Buttoning a button, tying your shoes, even learning how to ask for help, or finding a friend who enjoys helping you are all celebration worthy. Be so happy when your teen does even the small things and I PROMISE you are the first person they will think to call when they have a breakthrough. If you become their cheerleader, you will find a deep relationship that stays solid no matter how old (or stubborn) your teen gets.
- Let Them Be Sad Sometimes. I know that for my parents this one was and is the most difficult thing to do, no parent likes to see their child sad or hurting. But sometimes life with a disability just stinks. It. Stinks. And, it is just part of life. No amount of words can take away the hurt of being physically or emotionally or mentally different so sometimes saying “I’m sorry, I wish it could be different,” and letting them cry it out (and even crying with them) can bring a sense of validation and peace that teens are in desperate need of. If you do this, it will encourage your teen to be honest when they are struggling, and free them to allow you to be there the way you so desperately want to be.