Blog Section

The Forgotten Sibling(s) of a Child with Special Needs: How Parents Can Show They Remember

Parenting a child with special needs presents unique rewards and challenges. I once heard a mom compare her experience to “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” With all the twists and turns on the journey, it can be hard to focus on passengers in the back seat: the child’s sibling(s). Sometimes all you catch is a quick glimpse from the rear-view mirror, before your attention is called ahead to the next major bump in the road.

Before I address this topic any further, it is important to acknowledge that most parents of kids with special needs feel exhausted, guilty, and at times, overwhelmed. This article is not meant to induce more of those feelings. After a long day struggling with the needs of one child, the last thing you need is to be wracked with guilt about how it affected their sibling(s). This is hard to avoid, because quite frankly, many days your child with special needs will get more of your time and energy than your other kids. It’s the cold, hard truth; you can’t change this, and your other child likely knows it. The sooner you accept and acknowledge this, the sooner you’re on your way to giving your “backseat kid” what they may need most on those hard days: a listening ear and true understanding.

As a child therapist, I have spent many hours counseling parents that children, like everyone else, most want to be truly seen, heard and understood. In most cases, parents can do a “good enough” job giving this to their children. Hopefully, it is a relief to know that you don’t need to fix all your child’s problems or eliminate their struggles. You don’t need to have all the answers! But you do need to listen to them when it counts – to hear in a way that communicates: “I see you, and all your feelings are okay.”

For children who have a sibling with special needs, parents might be unaware of just how much is going on below the surface, both positive and negative. I recently spoke with a teenage girl who said this about how her brother’s autism affects her:

  • “I feel rejected by my family because often my turn never comes.”

  • “My sibling’s problems are more important than mine. No matter what I’m feeling some days, it feels like it doesn’t matter in the family.”

  • “My brother gets more attention for his interests because he talks about them so much. He doesn’t understand how I have interests that are important too.”

  • “I get to feel accepted because autistic people tend to be more accepting of others.”

  • “I get to watch him overcome his challenges and grow.”

  • “Sometimes people generalize autism as one thing, but it is a spectrum. They don’t get it, and that’s frustrating. Autistic people can be really different from each other.”

  • “I learn a lot because my brother knows a lot, and his mind goes so fast.”

  • “People can be mean and say rude things. They don’t really understand what people go through because they don’t live with it. It hurts and makes me mad. It’s hard because some things they say are true.”

  • “Sometimes it feels like he’s my mom’s favorite. It’s feels so unfair because she treats him differently. He gets more attention for his accomplishments.”

Before you ask your child what it’s like for them, prepare yourself for an honest answer that may be difficult to hear. It can help to take a deep breath; remember that your child’s struggles, no matter how difficult, can be opportunities for growth and learning. Having done this, it’s okay to ask directly about your child’s experience. You could phrase the question like this: “What’s it like for you? You know, living with your sister’s __________ (insert the name of the sibling’s disability)?” Then try to really listen and not talk much yourself. While you may be tempted to respond by saying something like, “I’m sorry … I just do the best I can,” resist. Just focus on hearing and reflecting what your child is saying; if they laugh, laugh with them, if they cry, cry with them, and above all, hear them. You can do this because in your own way, you get it; although you’re in different seats, you’re on this wild ride together.

More

Now or Later

 
Perhaps you are one of those individuals who are constantly asking themselves the question, should I do this now or later?  If your answer to this question is usually later you may have created a habit which can lead to undue stress, anxiety, guilt and shame in your life. It has been said that, “Every day spent procrastinating is another day spent worrying about that thing.  Do it now, and move on with your life.”   
 
In his book “Wait: The Art and Science of delay,” San Diego University professor Frank Partnoy provides another perspective on procrastination, he states, “Procrastination is just a universal state of being for humans.  We will always have more things to do than we can possibly do, so we will always be imposing some sort of unwarranted delay on some tasks.  The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well.”
 
Procrastination has been referred to as an active process where one chooses to do something else instead of the task that you know you should be doing. You may find that procrastination is not working well for you because avoidance doesn’t erase anxiety it just delays it.  If you are telling yourself that the reason why you procrastinate is because your are disorganized, apathetic or lazy, most likely you are telling yourself an untruth. Smart individuals are often procrastinators.
 
For some individuals procrastination can be symptomatic of a psychological disorder.  Procrastination has been linked to depression, low self esteem, irrational behavior, anxiety and neurological disorders such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  If you are finding that procrastination is impairing your quality of life consider seeking professional help from a mental health provider at Wasatch Family Therapy. 
 
Sue Hodges LCSW
More

LDS Bishops’ Interviews & Sexuality: Mormon Land Podcast

LDS Bishops’ Interviews & Sexuality: Mormon Land Podcast

The #MeToo hashtag (and the subsequent exposing of many high-profile figures as sexual predators) has given us as a society a lot to grapple with. From a Latter-day Saint perspective, some are questioning how appropriate it is for bishops to be talking about sexual matters with young people (particularly girls). I recently sat down with hosts Peggy Fletcher Stack and David Noyce, and former LDS bishop Richard Ostler to talk about these critical issues for the Mormon Land Podcast. Here are some highlights from our discussion:

The Interview

Why does this type of conversation take place in the first place? Why does the Church ask about sexuality at all? Part of our faith regulates sexual behavior, so there needs to be some questioning about that. Typically, bishops ask to what extent an individual is following the last of chastity for two reasons: the first is to grant a temple recommend (which requires a worthiness interview to determine whether the person is living the standards). The second is a general meeting that the bishop has with the youth about once a year to see how he/she is doing. What we may need to re-examine is the nature and the manner that these questions are asked in; how much detail is appropriate? How do we differentiate between issues like pornography usage, masturbation, or other sexual acts? What about cases of sexual abuse? All these nuances are important to consider in this very delicate subject of discussing sexuality with children.

More

Motherhood, Guilt About Not Being Productive, and Beliefs about Motherhood that Hurt Us: KSL Radio Mom Show

Motherhood, Guilt About Not Being Productive, and Beliefs about Motherhood that Hurt Us: KSL Radio Mom Show

Get more information on my new book The Assertiveness Guide for Women

More

“Hello Guilt. My Name is Shame.”

canstockphoto1624254

I frequently ask my clients this question, “What is the difference between guilt and shame.” Most clients reply that they aren’t really sure. The reason I ask this question so frequently, is because a lot of people I work with get swallowed up in these emotions from time to time. These are pretty common and even normal emotions to have in certain circumstances, yet most people have a hard time articulating what the difference is, or identifying them in themselves. I thought it would be useful to get to know each of these a little better.

GUILT- “I did bad, so I feel bad.”

One might ask why in the world were we created with this emotion. It is awful to feel! It certainly does not make the top ten lists of people’s favorite emotions to feel. Guilt can actually be a very useful emotion. Somewhere, deep down inside guilt, is a little seed of empathy, or concern for others and how they feel. Guilt helps us distinguish the difference between right and wrong, and works as little bumper lanes on a bowling ally do. Guilt keeps us pointed in the right direction. Now, People feel guilt for different things. What you feel guilt about depends on what you deem right or wrong. This is where I see people get in trouble with guilt. Many times, people who feel overwhelmed by guilt have attached it to things that have no moral implications of wrong, or are completely out of their control. You can see how guilt in these situations, is unnecessary, and frankly really ineffective. Remember, guilt is supposed to motivate me for positive change. So, feeling guilty that my child got an F in math is completely useless. First of all, getting an F in math isn’t morally wrong, and most importantly, I am not in control of my child’s behavior.

SHAME- “I did bad, so I am bad.”

Unlike guilt, shame is not motivating at all. In fact, for most people, shame is paralyzing. The big difference with shame is that you see yourself as the problem, not your behavior. One that is engulfed in shame, typically feels hopeless because you cannot escape yourself, and if you see your inherent nature or character as the problem, that feels pretty powerless. In the basement of shame is the belief that because I’m bad, people won’t love, accept, or value me. Typically, those swallowed up in shame have a hard time forgiving themselves, seeing their good intentions, or focusing on efforts rather than results.

Hopefully, you can now understand the difference between shame and guilt. If you find yourself feeling shame, you may be struggling with depression or anxiety. If you find yourself feeling guilt for many things that don’t have any moral implications, you may also be struggling with depression or anxiety. The good news is, there are proven ways to dispel shame and guilt, and to see the value in yourself again. If you are interested in learning how, schedule an appointment today.

More

Guilt: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Stressed Mom
A quote recently appeared on my Pinterest wall. It read “You only have 936 Saturdays with your children. Make them count.” My palms started to sweat. My stomach sank. Instantly my mind raced with a million questions. Have I been using my Saturdays wisely with my kids? Do I try to accomplish too many tasks on Saturday? Do I have enough fun with my kids? Am I a fun mom? As you can probably guess the barrage of questions only lead me to feel an intense amount of “mommy guilt” over my lack of fun Saturday activities with my kids.
Too often we get caught up in a cycle of feeling guilty about the things we are or are not doing. Whether it be over children, work, spouse, or just everyday tasks we can bring ourselves down to a very negative place that is hard to get out of. Daniel Nayeri wisely said, “Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change your direction-only enough to make you feel useless.” How true! Guilt is a feeling that can take our day from bright and shining to dark and dreary. If you find yourself on a constant track of guilt here are a few steps to help you get out of that cycle.
More

The Worst Feelings in the World and How to Get Rid of Them

Distraughtman

Have you ever had that awful pit in your stomach, a wash of discomfort throughout your body, or incessant thoughts that you just can’t seem to get out of your head in the middle of the night? I believe we all have, but it can be difficult to identify or explain what those feelings are.

Really powerful emotions (both positive and negative) are often very difficult to describe. We sometimes just don’t have the words. Having the words can enhance a positive experience or bring comfort to a difficult one.

I have spent the last several weeks reading Brene Brown’s books I Thought it Was Just Me (But it Isn’t) and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene Brown is a self-described shame researcher/story teller who has helped bring understanding to very difficult emotional experiences. She said that the four most common difficult emotions that people experience are embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and shame. Brown illustrates that knowing the differences and definitions of these four experiences makes all the difference in how we interact with them and move through them effectively. Let’s start with the definitions:

More

Understanding Mormon Guilt and Shame: Julie Hanks fMh Podcast


Understanding Mormon Guilt and Shame

More

Saying No Without Guilt: KSL Studio 5

Saying no to friends, neighbors, even family makes us feel guilty. Why is it so hard to say a confident no? Nearly two-thirds of women I’ve surveyed report having difficulty saying no when asked to do something they don’t want to do. Here’s today’s fun discussion on Studio 5 with Brooke Walker on why you don’t need to feel guilty when you choose to say this simple little word…no.

Download your free printable “Helpful Phrases For Saying NO”

Buy the book The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide For Overwhelmed Women

Cialis vs Viagra it is old dispute between two similar medicines which stand by the way almost equally. but here not a task how to decide on a choice and to start using one of them. Viagra vs Cialis much kontsentrivany cialis which is on sale in the form of powder and we use it as required emergency. but nevertheless what harm they neninut especially if the birch costs.

More

Ask a Therapist: I Feel Like a Failure As A Mom And Fiancee

I am a stay at home mom and lately I have been feeling like a failure. I feel like I can’t do anything right and that everything I do goes unnoticed. I have a wonderful fiance, who works hard to take care of our family and who loves me very much, but the problem lies with me. I can’t express my feelings to him. I have so much guilt inside of me. I feel guilty when I need money and my fiance gives it to me, I feel guilty if he comes home and the house isn’t spotless, even when the baby was a handful, I feel guilty if I take time for myself or if we go out without the baby. I feel guilty when the little one cries or throws tantrums when my fiance is at home, because I am supposed to be a good mother and a good housekeeper and a good fiancee, but I don’t feel like I am. I am a failure at everything and I am just so sick of crying everyday. How do I get past this? Please, please help me.

A: Thanks for your email. You sure put a lot of pressure on yourself! Who says you have to be a perfect fiancée, house keeper, or good at finances? It sounds like you want to be more than just good at those things, it sounds like you want to be perfect. I wonder if there’s something deeper going on, or how you learned to be so hard on yourself. Watch the video for the rest of this answer.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Cialis vs Viagra it is old dispute between two similar medicines which stand by the way almost equally. but here not a task how to decide on a choice and to start using one of them. Viagra vs Cialis much kontsentrivany cialis which is on sale in the form of powder and we use it as required emergency. but nevertheless what harm they neninut especially if the birch costs.

More