First Aid Tips for Parents

By Jane Horton


A parent of children with learning differences shares common-sense suggestions for maintaining her sanity and resilience when the going gets tough

Knowing that the daily pressures of parenting a child with LD or ADHD can zap energy and fortitude, I found it necessary to develop some basic first aid for myself. I wrote this list years ago, pulling it out when I felt my stress level tipping into the precarious zone. I find it still works to this day.

First Aid For Parents
  1. Get a mentor. Find that certain person who is slightly ahead of you in the parenting game whose style and philosophy you respect and admire. Learn from her. Do not reinvent the wheel. In addition to learning how she navigates the system, also home in on her secrets for self-preservation.
  2. Inventory your skills. We spend so much time helping our kids define and understand their strengths and weaknesses that we forget to acknowledge our own. Recognize what you’re good at, but also know what you can improve—and then craft a plan to build those areas up. Whether it’s advocacy skills, or general knowledge about your child’s learning profile, aim to be the smartest person in the room.
  3. Master advocacy. Get your skills up to snuff. Know the language needed to approach difficult situations and difficult personalities involving your child. Understand the fine art of negotiation. Your child will then learn from your expertise. Give positive feedback every chance you get.
  4. Keep your oxygen mask handy. When the day’s events spiral downward and you are headed to insanity, grab your mask and breathe. Then and only then can you help your child.
  5. Become an innovator. As a participant at your child’s IEP, you are also responsible for finding solutions to challenges that arise. You must be able to introduce something new or suggest changes. Bring something to the table every time you meet with teachers or administrators.
  6. Pick your battles. “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.” If you don’t, you will exhaust yourself. I also love the message, “sleep on it.” Everything looks different when you give it 24 hours.
  7. Take care of your funny bone. Humor helps everything. It diffuses anger and frustration and redirects the fall down a slippery slope.

The author is a mother of four children, three of whom have learning disabilities.