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Inclusion Matters

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by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As a mom of three, life was pretty busy when my kids were small. Carrying one in my arms, another in a stroller, and making sure the third was tagging along came with its challenges. I often felt like I was not doing enough.

In this unique world of allergic living, many of us have the job of riding the roller coaster of parenting with the added nuances of managing healthcare issues. Some days it is downright hard as heck. On other days, we find our rhythm and figure it out so things run smoothly.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of “inclusion exclusion” when one of our children has special needs, focusing on the needs of one child so much that our other children are expected to be ok with less attention. It’s a balancing act few get right 100 percent of the time. But we need to stay aware that ALL children are navigating their own set of concerns—peer pressure, competing in sports, feeling like they belong, maintaining good grades, trying not to disappoint parents. They want to feel like they belong and are seen and heard through all of life’s chaos.

Here are a few tips that may help you balance the scales a little better in your families' lives:

  1. Take time for yourself. Pouring from an empty cup begets an empty glass. If you don’t take care of YOURSELF, it is hard to spread yourself out to take care of the children under your care in a balanced way.
  2. Pride is a support killer. We simply cannot do all things at all times. On the surface, we know that—until our pride gets in the way. Give yourself permission to ask for help when you need it. Life has a way of turning around, and you too will eventually help someone.
  3. Maybe YOU CAN DO IT ALL. The key is that you don’t have to do it all at the same time. Children will only be the age they are right now one time. Enjoy this age while you can. Other things can wait. Help them feel like they are valued. Small things like putting off vacuuming to listen to them about their day or how they feel matters, even if we don’t understand it or THINK we have time for it.
  4. Listen to them without judgment. If your child says they don’t feel like you pay attention to them—whether they say it through body language, words, or behavior—be sure to LISTEN. It does not mean you aren’t a good caregiver. It means that life is so busy we sometimes must pause to listen intently.
  5. People will take as much as you give. If you volunteer or work a lot of hours, someone will always find more things for you to do. What does this mean for the small window of time we get to raise kids? We have to learn to say no to others.
  6. Put everyone in time out! This means taking time out for each child individually. If you don’t have a lot of support, this could mean you let one child stay up an hour later one night per month to have special time with you while the others sleep. You can find a ton of things to do that are precious to just you two.
  7. Give yourself grace. I can promise that none of us will ever be the perfect parent, and that’s okay. Forgive yourself often, pick yourself up, and do your best each day.

There is no one formula for daily parenting because all of us, including children, are different. Lead with love, listen to hear, remain curious, and make forgiveness of self and others a daily habit.