20th May 2016 Me
Your first child will mean that your parents and in-laws take on a new role in life themselves. They can be a real help or, in some cases, a bit of hindrance. They’ve been there and done it all before. However if your child has an additional need the role of grandparents can take on even more meaning.
Advice on offer
Grandparents have experience, that’s one thing you can be sure of. Obviously they are parents, have been for as long as you can remember and they know how to deal with certain situations. Granted, they may never have had a child with an additional need but some advice they can offer will always stand the test of time.
Some people welcome the support of their parents or in-laws, value their experience and find most of what they offer to be helpful. However, if you feel like your parents or in-laws are interfering try to handle the situation delicately. Try to be diplomatic and at least consider their comments. Responding with something like: ‘oh that’s really interesting, I’ll have a think about it’ or ‘I might consider that’ means you’re neither committing nor knocking them back! Grandparents usually just want to help and whether that’s wanted or not, in most cases it is their instinct to support you as much as they can.
Helping grandparents to cope
Bear in mind that your parents may find it difficult to come to terms with your child’s additional needs in the early days. They may have the same mix of emotions as you. Depending on their age, older generations may not hold a modern view of the possibilities for children with additional needs. Life can be fulfilled for people with additional needs in modern society so with the right words and guidance they can understand this.
Consider that as your parents or in laws they may grieve for you and for your child. If they are finding it hard to come to terms with your child’s additional need they may need some time and, in some cases, space. If this is the case give them time and space but let them know that you want them to be involved with their grandchild, if you do.
Try to answer any worries they may have and involve them in aspects of your child’s care to help them feel involved, learn about your child’s additional needs and alleviate any worries. They may feel excluded from support groups and information networks.
Everyone copes in different ways. It may be that your parents or in-laws want to spend the time researching toys, equipment or support organisations to help you. Many people like to feel useful in these situations and it could be a good way for them to cope and help at the same time.
Leading by your example
The early days, when you have either just had your baby and there are complications, or your child is older but only just received a diagnosis, are likely to be the hardest for everybody to navigate emotionally. Whilst you are trying to process what is going on, your other relationships may be buckling under the pressure of so many people being involved. They want to know what’s going on, of course, because they care about their children and grandchildren, but it can all feel a bit overwhelming.
If you don’t want them to visit the hospital as much as they are, then tell them. If you’ve just brought your baby home and you are adjusting to caring for them, then it’s ok to tell your family that you don’t want unannounced visits. Your routine is not going to the same as anyone else’s so your Mum or Mother-in-law popping in when they think it could be a good time is only going to cause you stress. Trying to understand your new baby, learning the routine that works best for you and how to administer medication is what’s going to consume all of your time initially. Making tea for people and worrying that your house looks like it’s been burgled won’t be.
Grandparents can help too
Grandparents can offer you real support when your child has an additional need. If they are retired or work reduced hours they may be able to help with childcare if you have to go back to work. Leaving your child with someone you trust is hard enough but when they have an additional need it feels even harder. Grandparents may also offer you respite or assistance when you need a break. They may be happy taking your child out for a few hours, watching them at your house while you get some jobs done, or even having them for an overnight stay. Don’t be afraid to ask, if you want them to.
If you’re asking your parents or in laws to care for your child while you’re not there, take plenty of time to let them learn your child’s routine, including caring for any health or disability related needs they may have. It’s a good idea to ask them to come and shadow you for a few days to see how things work. This will give you both a chance to see how things work, what needs to be done and when, as well as identifying any unexpected events that may crop up.
Your child’s grandparents can also support you on any hospital trips or visits to professionals. If you or your partner are unable to make all of the appointments due to work commitments then ask your parents or partner’s parents if they can accompany you. They’ll be a real support whilst you’re there and can help to look after your child, grab refreshments or just keep you company during the wait.
Helping grandparents to cope
Bear in mind that your parents may find it difficult to come to terms with your child’s additional needs in the early days. They may have a mix of emotions as you will too. Depending on their age, older generations may not hold a modern view of the possibilities for children with additional needs. Life can be so fulfilled for people with additional needs in modern society so with the right words and guidance they can understand this.
Consider that as your parents or in laws they may grieve for you and for your child. If they are finding it hard to come to terms with your child’s additional they may need some time and in some cases space. If this is the case give them time and space but let them know that you want them to be involved with their grandchild.
Try to answer any worries they may have and involve them in aspects of your child’s care to help them feel involved, learn about your child’s additional needs and alleviate any worries. If your parents struggle to come to terms with your child’s needs then that is their decisions but the situation should be addressed sensitively by all involved.
Family Fund – www.familyfund.org.uk
Grandparents Plus – www.grandparentsplus.org.uk
Gransnet – www.gransnet.com
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