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Apr 01

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More Strategies To Help You and Your Special Needs Child Enjoy Holidays with Extended Family

It seems like I only just recently posted a blog on getting through the family obligations of the winter holidays, and now for many of us, Passover or Easter holidays are coming up quickly. For some of us, that means travel, long meals or long weekends with extended family, and trying to get our children successfully through these transitions. I want to follow up with some more suggestions on how to communicate your child’s needs to  grandparents or other extended family members. Your goal may be to enlist their help and  support, or simply to minimize conflict and make it successfully through the time you spend together.

Just as you came to your understanding of your child over time, the grandparents and relatives may need their own time frame to come to a meeting of the minds with you. Keep in mind that you have daily interaction with your child and exposure to his challenges; relatives may see your child on special occasions only and know him only in that context. They will need more time to come to an understanding of the issues you face.

Try these strategies to help your relatives, especially grandparents, along:

  • Invite them to watch a video about the disorder with you.
  • Invite them to accompany you and your child on a medical check-up and allow them to ask the doctor questions. Getting answers from the expert rather than directly from you may have a different effect on their understanding of their grandchild.
  • Allow them to sit in on an educational meeting where your child’s struggles are discussed.
  • Provide them with a list of disability websites.
  • Share your favorite books on the topic of disability.
  • Invite them to join you at workshops and lectures.
  • Ask them to join the disability organizations you belong to, and even to help with fundraisers. Participating as a family in a charity fundraising walk-a-thon, for example, can be a satisfying bonding experience for all family members.

Although these strategies will not necessarily bring all family members around to the same page of understanding, it may be well worth the investment of your time. Your child will be more likely to have the opportunity to develop a genuine relationship with the grandparents or other relatives, and you may end up feeling more comfortable allowing the relatives to babysit!

Despite your best efforts, some extended family still might not “get it”

There are times when, despite your attempts to educate and involve your extended family, they are still critical and unsupportive. Communicate with them about your concerns and about the negative effect their approach is having on your relationship with them.

If contact with these family members continues to be distressing, you need to take control of the situation. You may have to decide to spend less time with extended family. You may need to be the one to set the terms for communication and visits. You may decide that you will not visit them because they cannot handle your child’s needs, but they are welcome in your home. You may decide that you will call them weekly, but discussion of your parenting issues or your child’s needs are topics that are off limits. You may decide that you need to create your own version of holiday customs and visits, like a Christmas dessert instead of a full-length dinner. Some of you may decide that regular contact needs to be cut even further, to protect yourself and your child from emotional harm.

In that case, you may wish to state that your contacts will be limited to emails or holiday cards. It may help to keep the door to communication open even in that limited way, to protect you now but to keep alive the possibility that the relationship may improve over the years.It is not reasonable for you to expect yourself not to be negatively affected if you watch your child consistently being excluded from family activities, or repeatedly hearing a lecture on your poor parenting skills. If family visits are consistently more draining than supporting, you may need to take care of yourself and your immediate family. The feelings of your extended family are secondary to your own wellbeing.

Overall, however, social isolation is a detriment to your long-term physical and mental health. Research has shown that social connection improves your health and even extends your life. The effort expended in seeking support from others will yield plenty of returns.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.drwalisever.com/2012/04/more-strategies-to-help-you-and-your-special-needs-child-enjoy-holidays-with-extended-family/

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