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  • Posted June 18, 2018

Independence Isn’t Automatic

I worry sometimes, because it feels like there is a huge push to get children and young adults involved in as much as possible, but it’s the parent(s) driving the issue (in most cases). When our children are young, this makes a lot of sense – they don’t have many experiences and most likely don’t have any idea what they would like or not like.

However, rather than backing off, I’m seeing many parents keeping themselves firmly entrenched – in some cases until their child is in the mid-twenties. And I don’t draw a distinction with my concerns between parents of children with disabilities and children without. A disability is not a definitive statement of what someone can, or cannot, do. It’s an invitation to determine what supports the individual(s) may need to achieve the same (or more) success as those without the disability.

I’m not a “parenting expert” – I’m a financial planner and I have gotten very good at finding resources for myself and others (Special Needs Navigator). These concerns stem from working with clients and personal observations. It appears the default reaction for many of us is “I’ll do it (for them)”. How does this teach anyone to become self-reliant?

Instead, I challenge everyone to give up control of at least (1) thing every 3 – 4 months. Start small, and base it on the age and current ability of your child. It may be as simple as “what are you making for breakfast (not what do you want)”? Or, start teaching them how to grocery shop – by making a list. Let them tell you what they want, and rather than saying “no” immediately when they ask for “garbage” (I have a teenage son); take some time to help them understand what it means to eat food that is bad for them – in as simple terms as it needs to be.

Or, you make the list but enlist them to help determine what needs to be bought. Show them how to check when to buy – maybe it’s because you only have one roll of paper towels left. You could even put a sticky note on the roll saying “buy more”, as a scaffolding tool (lay the foundation).

Yes, it will more than likely be more work for you, in the SHORT term. But we’re not going to be around forever, and if your son/daughter can’t (or won’t) do things for themselves what kind of life are you setting them up for? Again, this isn’t limited to those with disabilities, although I feel like we (families who have a child with a disability) may be guilty of this more than others. Please, I implore you, give your children power. Don’t quit because they don’t get it right away. New skills take time, and in some cases, supports. Start with low hanging fruit and work up. You’ll thank yourself in the years to come.


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