The work and learning continues for all of you.
And if your adult child has moved into a new living situation, here are some things to think about.
Lesson 1: Remember what is important
You have to keep your eye on the prize: your child’s wellbeing. How do you do that?
1) Concern yourself primarily with what your child did, is doing, or will do. Look at him. Talk to him. Hug him if you can. Be affectionate but also be respectful. Do your parent job by observing keenly, taking in any changes (positive or negative) and consciously noting them. Is he more active? Wide-eyed? Stimmy? Talkative? What is he talking about? What words and sounds are you hearing? Are they okay?
You have to look deep inside, to your wisest part: your instinct, and find the truth there, asking: Is he doing well?
2) In terms of your dealing with all the other people involved: keep your head above any squabbles — whether among the other families, the service providers, the staff — anything not directly about your child.Remember that in any workplace or group, there will be gossip, guessing, rumor, innuendo. Try not to engage. To discern the truth, if you really have to, ask the person who can most directly have knowledge of this bit of talk or who can most directly have an impact on it.
3) Frame complaints as questions, not accusations. Do this by assuming the best of each person; that will effect your outlook and your tone.
4) If you’re emailing staff or other parents, CC only one other person, just to keep it professional. Don’t CC the whole chain of command: that can appear threatening.
5) Always call before coming over. This is a home, and it is not yours.
6) Be friendly and interested in anything the staff or other families want to tell you. Always listen, to be certain that anything relating to your kid is going okay. But don’t listen too carefully to details that might be just unsettling gossip. Safety and wellbeing of your child: that’s what you need to know about.
7) Don’t be ready to jump ship as soon as anything unexpected or unpleasant happens. Remind yourself that this is a home, not a laboratory. Not a classroom. Things cannot be perfect, or even the way you dreamed. Things can only be real life and you have to decide what you will and will not accept. Decide on your non-negotiables and let the rest ride. You can always wait a day and deal with something non-dangerous at another point in time. Check in with your child in whatever way you can to assess the reality.
For me, the bottom line is Nat’s safety and happiness/contentment. He might be more anxious than we’d like, but it is a new, stressful situation. That’s the reality. His staff are good people, well-trained, and caring. That’s another fact. His parents are highly involved, loving, but very intense. That’s true, and it’s okay.
Nat will live through his current anxiety. Like all of us, it is good for our children to experience living through difficulty and struggle. In a group home situation, the more we can step back and see each person’s reality and keep focused on what’s important — the child’s wellbeing — then we can let go of the little things and breathe easy.