18 Mar If Only My Child Were…
In a decade of consulting, I have witnessed many parents struggling to come to terms with what it means to have a 2e child. They celebrate and they grieve. It is hard to acknowledge that your child is different. Twice exceptional children think differently, they feel differently, they act differently. You can’t mold them into a more pliable child or train them to be typical.
Yet many parents keep trying, and that is the root of the majority of their parenting problems. As with many difficult issues, dealing with it requires that you move through the stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But some parents get stuck in the process.
There are the parents who are in denial; they believe that if they just keep pushing, they will help their child realize his or her full potential. They feel they can somehow find a way to normalize their child through outside help. These parents just know that their child should be able to accomplish their agenda. When that doesn’t work, these parents often distance themselves from their children. It is easier to hang on to their dream child if the real one isn’t up close and personal.
Then there are the angry parents. They lash out at everyone and everything, including their child. These parents are furious that the world doesn’t fit their child. They end relationships, pull out of programs, and threaten to sue. They want someone to pay for their child’s lack of success. Many of them are self-righteously indignant and fighting for change, but their own children can be casualties of their battles. Under all the activism is anger, and their children internalize that anger as rejection. They begin to believe that there is really something wrong with them at their core. Anxiety and perfectionism runs rampant. Ultimately, they feel that they can’t do anything right.
By the time parents get to bargaining, a lot of damage has been done. Their children see themselves as incapable and unlovable. At this point, bribery will not get results, because their children have not developed good self-efficacy. They see their parent’s lack of confidence and that further erodes their own belief in their abilities. Even parental efforts to bargain with others on their behalf can be difficult for their children. Ultimately, their children see themselves as flawed. At a deep level, they feel their parent’s internal struggle to cope with the demands of raising a 2e child.
And then there is acceptance. If this could be the first stop in the stages of loss, so much trauma could be avoided! I wish I could give the gift of acceptance to parents of 2e children. It takes faith, patience, and fortitude to allow your child to move through his or her own unique growth patterns. Society places so many expectations on parents to conform to the status quo. They are also subject to a great deal of fear mongering on a daily basis. Parents start to believe that their child will not be successful if they do not take action. They cling to conformity. They work hard to ensure their child will successfully walk that traditional path to adulthood. Ironically, the very thing they want most for their child is least likely to happen on that path.
So, parents, work through your stages, but move swiftly to acceptance. Embrace the child you have. Respect their unique way of growing into the world. Honor their personal timeline as they explore their possibilities. Let go of your agenda. Your job is to help them build their own dreams.