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It's OK to Let Your Child With a Disability Struggle Sometimes

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I am a person with a disability. I have cerebral palsy and am an amputee as well as a wheelchair user. My mom is very over-protective of her four kids, especially me, her daughter with a disability. My dad is not so over-protective, and for that, I’m grateful and appreciative.

I still currently live at home. Recently, there was an instance where my brother needed to help me with my phone. I needed him to make adjustments to my phone case so I could access my stylus independently. My brother handed my phone back and asked me to try to do what I needed after he showed me how.

At first, I struggled with it. Immediately my mom began to see me struggle and asked my brother if he thought I needed a new, easier case to manage my phone. I responded with “no, all I need is to practice as I learn what I need to do.” I learned easily and can now use my phone on my own. If my dad sees me struggling with something, he will normally try not to intervene unless I ask for help. I appreciate so much that he lets me do and try things on my own.

Part of the reason I think my mom is so over-protective is she still views me as her little baby. I think this is normal for most parents. Even though parents want their children to grow up and thrive, often part of them never wants their children to not need them. This still happens no matter what we achieve and accomplish in our lives. I think, especially when it comes to children with disabilities, some parents will do anything to avoid seeing us struggle. It is hard emotionally for a parent to watch their child, disabled or not, have a hard time doing something. However, I think when parents consistently jump in and help, they can unknowingly cause a codependence issue for their child or adult with a disability.

Trying to figure out things on our own allows us to develop a sense of independence as well as an ability to think for ourselves without having parents step in constantly. Especially when it’s not necessary. Children, especially those with disabilities, want to prove to our parents what we are capable of doing. I believe deep down, parents believe their kids are capable of doing things by themselves, but parents know they won’t be here forever so they want to do it while they can. Instead, they should let their child or adult with a disability struggle and prove to their parents that they got this. It may not be perfect because nothing is, but if they can do it, then that is another skill they have in their “independence toolbelt.” I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary for both parent and child, no matter how old they might be.

I have struggled many times and will continue to struggle many more times in my life. Without the struggles, I would not be where I am today. There are valuable lessons to be learned when we struggle. It’s OK to let your child learn from struggling.

I am not saying parents need to completely stop helping their children. I am saying if you know your child or adult with a disability wants to try something on their own and you think they are capable of it, let them try. It’ll be OK in the end!

Getty image by Warren Goldswain.

Originally published: March 15, 2021
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