In the last six weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at three different state homeschool conventions. At each conference I attend, I share information about learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorders, and Auditory Processing Disorders. More important than the facts I pass along are the real-life stories from my own family experiences. I share what didn’t work as well as what worked at least some of the time. I share some of the failures and frustrations as well as our hard-won achievements.
When my first two children graduated from our homeschool in 2006, we declared our school colors to be black and blue. We were the homeschool of hard knocks! Not only did my children struggle with learning, but I struggled to try to find better ways to teach them. One of the biggest benefits for those attending workshops for children with various special needs is to look around and realize they are not alone. There are others striving to teach children with challenges, and others who understand the difficulties families face when their child has to work harder than most for every small gain they accomplish.
What has always amazed me is how God has prompted me to share some of the hardest, most unimpressive movements of my life and that is what people are blessed by in my workshops. Sure, I offer lots of tips and practical strategies, but what people connect with is hearing a speaker who admits to not having it all together but never gave up trying. My son is a young adult now, and he comes to conferences with me. People look at the two of us as survivors, who dealt with a lot of learning challenges and came out intact. Now Josh can share his perspective, and give parents insight into why their children may act the way they do.
I’ve never had all the answers to the challenges my children faced. What I did have was a commitment to help them grow into the unique individuals God intended them to become, equipping them as best I could. Sometimes I was out of ideas for how to teach a given topic, and my kids still weren’t “getting it”. All I had to offer was reassurance that I would keep trying to find ways to help, and would not give up on them. I would be the knot at the end of the rope that they could hang onto. The message was: Mom doesn’t have all the answers but Mom will always be there with you, coming alongside until we figure something out.
Don’t underestimate the power of just being there for your children. You don’t need to know all the answers, but your kids need to know you haven’t given up on them. It’s in the safety of knowing your love is unwavering that your children find the courage to try again, fail or succeed, and try some more. Our children are far more than what they can or cannot do, and they each have something to offer. This overall supportive attitude has a far greater impact than the best teaching strategies in the world.
Years ago I had a man in his 30’s come up to talk to me after I presented my workshop, “Helping the Distractible Child”. I don’t remember which conference it was, but I will forever remember what he said to me. He explained that as a child he always had difficulty paying attention, and was constantly getting in trouble as a result. He thought he was smart enough, but couldn’t sit still and had trouble completing assignments. He tried hard to comply with the demands put on him, but always felt like he was a disappointment to his parents no matter how hard he worked. “I wish I’d had a mom like you,” he said. “One who could see the strengths and work with me.”
One day all of our children will be adults. I challenge you to be that Mom, the one who never gives up on her kids no matter what. Be that Dad, who is consistently there for his children regardless of their struggles. Be that husband or wife who sticks around during the hard times. Be that person, so that one day your adult children will be able to say, “I’m so glad I had a Mom (and Dad) like you.”