When our kids were young, I wanted my husband to read everything I could find about Asperger's. I often felt compelled to try (almost) every intervention suggested to us, especially when the diagnosis was new. My husband was supportive, but skeptical.
Finding the balance between our approaches wasn't always easy. Sometimes we let being right be more important that finding a solution. Sometimes our conversations were so predictable it was as if we were following a script in a poorly written play. And sometimes we'd have an "aha" moment and be able to solve a tough problem together.
But what do you do when you and your partner disagree on why your child is struggling and what you should do about it?
Don't keep having the same argument
- Allow for the possibility that you don't know the right answer: When we feel stressed we don't offer our most flexible and accommodating selves. We tend to seek out information or feelings that support our beliefs and ignore data that might poke even the smallest hole in our perspective. We end up painting ourselves into a dogmatic corner when we allow being right to be more important than resolving our dilemma.
- Don't expect your spouse to read your mind: Presuming our partner will intuit our expectations regarding our children often leads to disappointment. Set aside time to talk about expectations together.
- Focus on one issue at a time: It's very easy to start a conversation about one topic (like your expectations for help with a school meeting) and end up bringing up other disagreements and unmet hopes in your relationship. Stick to the specific issue you are trying to resolve.
- Be kind: Parenting can be very demanding. There is always more to do and no way to get it all done. It helps to remember that you are on the same team, working to figure out what your children need and prioritizing what needs to get addressed. We need to be patient with ourselves and others when things don't go as planned.
Learn about Asperger's (or related profile) together
- Seek to understand why your child is having a hard time: Talk to a professional or a parent who has a child like yours. It can also be helpful to hear from adults with Asperger's about their experience growing up. Contacting AANE with your questions or concerns is a great first step.
- Re-examine your beliefs: Although I knew intellectually that many things were harder for my son, in my gut, I still sometimes felt like he he could do better if he just "tried harder." Once my thinking shifted and I believed how hard he had to work to get along out in the world, I had more compassion and less judgement regarding his behavior.
- Be willing to parent differently from how you were parented: We often repeat patterns (whether helpful or not) from our own parents. But our kids might need a different approach. Be willing to change your own behavior.
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