I hope you and all your loved ones are healthy and safe. As I write this, I am just finding out that my daughter’s college is switching to distance learning for the remainder of the semester and my husband’s company is considering telecommuting options for its global staff. Earlier this week, I took the unusual step of keeping my son home from school because he had a cold. It wasn’t severe, but that is what our local department of health advised, so we complied. He had an online meeting with his guidance teacher while he was at home. She mentioned this was good practice for participating in online classes, which will begin next week. Lastly, I was hoping to visit my mom’s this weekend, but now she must be in isolation because she is in a high-risk category and cannot have visitors.
As I am sure you know, all these changes to our normal routines are because of COVID-19, also known as a coronavirus. Now that the virus has officially achieved pandemic status, meaning it has spread all over the world, we are facing a new level of uncertainty in our lives. As parents of twice exceptional kids, the one thing we have learned we can be certain of in life is uncertainty. We are uncertainty experts!
That may sound like cold comfort, but I actually think it helps us develop some great skills that can be very useful in these unsettling times. As parents of 2e kids, we need to learn to be flexible, patient, empathetic and creative as we raise our kiddos, and now is certainly a good time to possess those qualities. For many of us, our days are already filled with uncertainty. We need to be flexible when the school calls (again!) to discuss our kiddo’s behavior and ask that we pick them up early. We need to be patient and empathetic with our kids when they are feeling anxious and engage in oppositional behavior. We need to come up with creative solutions to the myriad challenges our kids throw at us, like refusing to eat certain foods or being dysregulated by sensory issues. As we help our kids get through the stressful changes in their lives, we will need to draw heavily on these characteristics to help them stay calm and learn to adapt when the rug gets pulled out from under them.
Because of our kiddos, we have also learned to do research, become advocates, have back-up plans, and build teams and communities of support for ourselves and our kids. These are also great skills to have right now. There is A LOT of news about the virus out there. Much of it is accurate and helpful, but some downplay the situation, while others lead with fear-inducing headlines. And, of course, others try to capitalize on the situation. We need to use our best research skills to find science-backed information on how to keep our families safe.
It is also a good time to be an experienced advocate. Some 2e kids are medically fragile or have underlying health issues like asthma and we will need to be able to make sure they get what they, as well as other family members, need to stay healthy or weather the virus. We also have skills creating back-up plans when things don’t turn out as we expected. When one school doesn’t work out, you try another. When the babysitter falls through, or you realize they are not up to the job, you figure out an alternative. That is just how we have to roll. Right now, life is all about the back-up plan. We will need to have a back-up plan for when schools close or switch to distance learning. This leads to my final point – we are good at building teams. Our kids are complex and it really does take a village to raise them. They need related service providers, therapists, specialists, tutors and more, and parents act as team captains, making sure everyone is working together to achieve a common goal. Having those team-building strategies can really come in handy now as we work to make our back-up plans, even if we have to engage our teams remotely. The more resources we have in place, the better prepared we will be to get through uncertain times.
As we face this challenge, we must be strong for our kids. They need us to step up and be leaders. It is okay to be afraid of what is ahead of us. However, we can have our feelings without succumbing to hysteria. If we can marshal our skills and resources, we will show our kids how to forge ahead and thrive despite adversity.