When you have special needs children it can be easy to focus on those children and lose sight of everything else. A few years ago I had that focus on one of our children and it was necessary that Cheryl and I worked together to get in sync.
As Cheryl has mentioned in Helping Special Needs Children During Church we had issues with our oldest attending church. In this particular incident, he decided he wasn’t going to sit with the family and wanted to sit in the last row of the chapel. I decided I would sit with him and try to help him, at least that’s what I thought I was doing. So as we’re sitting there in church, I get a text from Cheryl that said, “I feel like you are parenting one child and I’m parenting four.” Ouch! In my efforts to help, I didn’t realize that I was focusing all my time on one child and not on the others.
You see, parenting a special needs child can feel like you’re parenting multiple children. Levi would want things a certain way. It took time, effort, and a lot of energy to cater to what he wanted. He learned to play me like a violin and get what he wanted. Bedtime was a big deal. It would take about an hour to get him settled and ready to sleep.
Additionally, I often travel for work. This meant Cheryl had all five children. She couldn’t possibly do all the things I did for Levi and parent the other four. This led to issues with bedtime, dinner, electronics and getting ready for school. Cheryl couldn’t use the parenting techniques with Levi that she did with the others because I parented Levi much differently than how she parented the other four. Levi did not want to comply with the rules the others followed and this caused conflict.
Because of the way I parented Levi, Cheryl was frustrated with me and the four other children were jealous of the time I spent with Levi. And of course, I was oblivious until Cheryl pointed it out.
Getting on the Same Page
The night of the text at church we discussed our parenting styles and how we weren’t in sync. We were headed for disaster. This was the start of us working on our marriage and our parenting skills.
Working on a marriage and parenting is tough because it takes time and a willingness to change. I grew up in an environment where the family was the top priority. I watched my parents and grandparents put family first and felt I needed to as well. I saw that I wasn’t putting family first, but that I was putting one child before all the rest, including Cheryl.
So what did we do? Well, first off we talked. This was probably the most important step. We were able to discuss our points of view. We were also able to explain our frustrations and how we felt. During this time we also listened to each other. Listening is an underused skill, but an important one. As we listened we could understand where we were coming from and why we were parenting the way we were.
Make a Plan and Stick To It
We then made a plan to work on our marriage and parenting. Our plan involved the following:
- Counseling – To help us further discuss how to get on the same page
- Classes – To help us strengthen our marriage
- Date Night – Once a week we got away to help us stay connected
- Reading – We read books together like Parenting With Love And Logic and I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better
- Talking and Listening – We continued to talk with and listen to each other
Since we started working on our marriage and parenting we have seen changes. Our children have also seen changes. For instance after we have taken a class, they ask “What did that class do to you?” We always answer with “It has made us better parents.”
Following our plan helps our family move forward.