Parenting itself is a challenge. Parenting a child with special gifts and special needs brings a whole other set of challenges that can take a toll on a marriage. I’m writing this article for you!
So often, there is so much focus on the child on the Asperger’s Autism spectrum that there is little left over for the parents.
So, what tips and suggestions can I give you?
1. Recognize the positive characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome.
Recognize that your child is quirky, gifted, and different minded. And that she has so much to bring to this world, just like every other human being.
At the same time, take the time to educate yourself continuously about Asperger’s syndrome. How long would it take you to fit in if you moved to China? (or, if you live in China, how long would it take you to understand and fit in here in the United States?) Learning how your child with Asperger’s syndrome thinks and feels, how he views the world, is like learning a new language and a new culture. It’s a marathon, so take it little by little.
2. Learn how you talk to yourself about your child with Asperger’s syndrome.
All of us have thoughts that go through our minds on a continuous basis. These are called automatic thoughts. These thoughts interact with and affect our emotions. Sometimes we need to understand how we are communicating to ourselves about parenting our Asperger’s child.
When the road gets stressful, we can think this way:
- “He’s such a little brat.”
- “He’s so picky”
- “Why does she always defy my authority?”
- “I didn’t sign up for this gig! My child was supposed to be ‘normal'”
Until we can be honest about ourselves about our real thoughts, feelings, and emotions about this whole process, we cannot take a more constructive approach. Depending on our temperaments and backgrounds, we may try to deny how we feel, or go to the other extreme of always stating negative things about our child and about having to deal with this burden.
On the other hand, we can honestly acknowledge the difficulty and challenges associated with parenting a child with special needs. Then, we can choose a different line of thinking:
- “What is my child’s behavior and attitude trying to communicate to me right now?”
- “I can get support when I’m overwhelmed–it’s okay to be human”
- “What gifts do I see in my child, and what opportunities does she present to me as a parent?”
For some more information about how to change your thoughts for the better, I would recommend the Change Your Thoughts blog.
3. Talk often as parents, have fun, and have romance.
It’s too easy, as parents, to let your child, because he is different than most NT’s (neurotypicals), take all of your attention. This can happen at the expense of your attention to your other children, and to your own marriage. Determine early on that, though you love your child dearly, you are going to balance your time and priorities so that your marriage comes first, and that you spend equal time and attention on the other members of your family who don’t have Asperger’s syndrome.
I would recommend the blog called Engaged Marriage for a resource in terms of ways to keep your marriage fresh, fun, and joyful at all times. Make sure you take time once a week at least to connect with each other, to ask how each other are doing, or to problem-solve challenges that are going on in your family. Also make sure that you take time to go out on dates.
4. Reach out.
This is a topic for a future blog post. I would love to hear from many of you about how you get support as a parent of an Asperger’s child. Are you part of an Autism or Asperger’s chapter in your city or town? If you are on facebook, type in the word ‘autism’ or ‘aspergers’ to find groups dedicated to supporing each other online. Don’t be afraid to talk to other trusted friends about what you are going through, so that you have someone to talk to.
5. Get professional consultation as needed.
You may find that you need to get some marriage counseling and coaching to deal with the stressors that arise in the course of parenting a child who is neurodiverse. Don’t be afraid to do so. It’s not easy to take the time to clearly to communicate to each other, and having a trained, compassionate professional to help you sort through the problems and solutions of everyday living can be very comforting and hopeful. Also, don’t be afraid to go for family counseling: think of it as family coaching. Make sure that the professional you are working with has some understanding of Asperger’s syndrome, so that you can know that s/he can help you navigate the parenting journey.
I hope you found this helpful, and I would love to hear any of your feedback and suggestions. Please subscribe to my blog and come back often to converse about the adventure that is called parenting your asperger’s child.