The holidays can be a challenging time due to the pressure put on making each moment as happy and wonderful as possible. Coming at a time of the year in which the weather can be a challenge, school poses its own complications, finances as a possible concern (Gifts! Utilities! Vehicle Health! Life!), work… the holidays may be sold as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ but can be anything but. Trying to speak with a family member about Cerebral Palsy poses its own unique challenges, not only due to the public nature the discussion may have, but also due to the emotions involved. Our hope is to help prepare and arm you for any discussion you might have to not only get past this conversation but come out better for it in all ways!
First, why are we focused on this topic? Simply put, we have seen more traffic and focus on things like Disability Etiquette and topics surrounding Cerebral Palsy and the holidays. Encouraging a discussion is always a focus of ours, but speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy poses its own challenges. Other blogs have taken this to heart as well; Love That Max has an excellent piece on how to speak with a relative who doesn’t quite “get” your child with special needs. Functionally, our goal is to enable this discussion to be its best because a family, in most cases, is its best when all members are pulling in the same direction.
SO… what to do when it comes to speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy?
First: be polite and pre-empt where possible. If last year’s holidays were a disaster because of the language used, be sure to send around our Disability Etiquette (linked above) overview and communicate why you need this year to be different. While we’re encourage families to be effective in communicating about Cerebral Palsy/special needs, that does not mean we believe the onus is on parents to bend backwards to accommodate ignorance. Whether offering (or encouraging) recipes that meet your child’s dietary requirements or speaking to other family members about problems faced in the past, use the time leading up to the holidays to be active in advocating your child.
Second: be honest with yourself about you and your child’s limits. If a holiday cannot be positive due to a misinformed or inappropriate family member, consider not going or rescheduling with others. You and your child’s emotional health should not be sacrificed for others. Similarly, if the long drive or packing the car are too much of a drain, consider hosting (when possible) or finding a different way to celebrate. We most definitely are not encouraging isolation with this advice but, instead, are focused on pointing out that a holiday spent in misery or difficulty is not fair to you and your child. Speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy’s impact on your ability to travel or handle various situations may uncover a wealth of opportunities that accommodate your child’s special needs. Communication, as a result, is key.
Third: go digital if necessary. Speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy may initially feel confrontational (depending upon their level of awareness and advocacy) or daunting (there’s so much to explain!) Consider using text or email to quickly explain the facts you feel are important. Doing so lets you prepare the key points, phrase things as you see fit and, most importantly, link to sites like ours (!!!) that carry significant detail and additional areas to explore.
Finally: bring the conversation and focus back to the core truth – you’re family. Any level of misinformation or ill thoughts regarding special needs or Cerebral Palsy should never trump the common bond uniting your family. Explaining that the expression of personal views limits your ability to enjoy family events should be a low-no barrier discussion – you should not be made to feel bad for your child’s Cerebral Palsy, nor the special needs associated. A family member may be completely unaware of the harm or challenges they are introducing into your family’s life, making speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy a (hopefully) effective way to bridge the gap.
Our core goal in advocating speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy is at encouraging advocacy within your own family while breaking down barriers you may be facing. Information and education are the two cogs of refuting misinformation and helping bridge important gaps. Whether in your own family, school, community, etc., every effort to remove stigmas or ignorance surrounding special needs not only helps your child today but also others with special needs.
If we can be of any assistance in the process, both in speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy or in helping your child reach their full potential, never hesitate to contact us. Available by phone ((800) 692-4453(800) 692-4453 FREE) or through our online contact form, the MyChild care team is here to help in any way possible.