‘Don’t bury what you don’t want to grow.’
Like a spring garden, well-maintained feelings grow and produce thoughtful responses. Untended feelings grow too; they may permeate like weeds interfering with and ultimately overwhelming good growth. Feelings don’t evaporate because we don’t attend to them. Feelings reside in our being. As parents, partners, caregivers – careful maintenance of our feelings enriches our relationships. Well-maintained feelings create space for thoughtful responses and good growth. Untended feelings, like that spring garden, show up as weeds that may inhibit fruitful growth.
A family is like a garden: each plant in the garden contributes its particular beauty. Each plant needs, deserves its particular attention for the garden to develop. Individual attention; individual care. Parents are individuals in that family garden, too.
‘Grow your Being.’
Parents are also mediators between the child and the world. In the complex world of autism, processing a diagnosis, gathering information, developing a treatment plan may tax the soil of that family garden. Many times parents don’t have language for their feelings. There may be too many feelings to sort out; they may think their feelings don’t matter, or the only thing that does matter is to get going on the doing of having a child diagnosed with autism.
In the best interest of your child and You (and your partner, and your other children) allow space for your being. Like space allowed for growth between plants, name your feelings and shape the behaviors your feelings inspire into positive responses that inform decisions, cultivate good growth and advance development.
To advance, I invite parents to take a look back. In many cases, parents of newly diagnosed children have been concerned, worried or simply wondering if something is wrong. They may have felt anxiety, fear and a pervasive sense of doubt in their ability as a parent. When the diagnosis comes, there may be a sense of relief that now there is an answer; simultaneously, some parents describe a feeling of guilt at the sense of relief. Prune the weed of self-doubt.
In cases of parents with long-diagnosed children, they may be simply drained; the nutrients in the soil need to be replenished, re-fertilized. I invite those parents to take a look back and notice the tender growth and gains in their family garden. It is usually a poignant reflection, but one that reminds parents of the fruitfulness of the tending. Harvest the fruit.
Parent partners may experience shared feelings; many times they experience distinctly different feelings. Single parents may tell me there is nothing they can do about their feelings: no time, nobody understands, an indulgence they simple cannot afford. I have witnessed the impact of untended feelings at great cost to the well-being of the parent, parents, family and ultimately to the well-being of the child. Cultivate new growth.
Sunlight. Water. Nourishment. Careful pruning. Love. All the plants in the garden. Spring ahead. Just a thought…