Embracing a Different Path: Celebrating Our Children’s Journey Beyond Graduation Season
I usually make my posts for everyone but, as a parent of children with disabilities whose post-secondary activities and paths did not follow the traditional route, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences on the topic of dealing with some hard feelings during this season and really writing this one for the parents of children with diverse needs. Seeing our friends and family proudly sharing pictures and stories of their children’s traditional post-secondary routes, such as college or university or even working, can evoke a mix of emotions within us, some of them actually hurt. I have talked with other parents and learned I was not alone in this and that it is not unusual for us to find ourselves grappling with sadness, longing, and even a sense of loss when our own children with disabilities may not follow the same path. But fear not, dear parents, for there are ways to navigate these emotions and find joy in celebrating our children’s unique journey. I debated this topic because I did not want anyone to think this means we are embarrassed about our children’s hard work and progress and that we are not excited for them to reach graduation but decided to go along with this because it is…..different.
I want to say first and foremost, it’s crucial to acknowledge and validate our feelings. It’s okay to experience sadness or disappointment when our child’s path looks different from societal norms. Recognize that these emotions stem from a place of love and a genuine desire for our children to experience all the opportunities the world has to offer. This was something I had to take time to focus on.
While it’s natural to mourn the dreams we may have had for our children, let’s also remember that their journey is their own. Our children have incredible strengths, talents, and potential that may not fit into the traditional post-secondary mold. It’s about reframing our perspective and embracing the path that unfolds before us.
Here are some suggestions for coping and finding joy in celebrating our child’s unique journey:
Embrace Individuality: Celebrate the unique qualities and strengths of your child. Focus on their personal growth, achievements, and the milestones they have reached along their own path. Don’t forget to share this with others because it’s all worth bragging about and celebrating!
Shift the Focus: Instead of comparing our child’s journey to others, redirect our attention to their progress, personal development, and the skills they have acquired. Each step forward is worth celebrating, regardless of the direction it takes.
Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that success is not limited to a specific educational path. Success can be found in various forms, such as pursuing vocational training, entrepreneurship, creative pursuits, or community engagement. Expand your definition of success and honor the accomplishments your child achieves.
Foster a Supportive Community: Connect with other parents who may be going through similar experiences. Share stories, advice, and support. Building a network of understanding individuals can provide comfort, encouragement, and new perspectives.
Explore Alternative Post-Secondary Options: Research post-secondary programs, vocational training, or community-based initiatives that align with your child’s interests and strengths. There are numerous opportunities for personal growth and skill development outside of traditional higher education.
Cultivate Independence and Life Skills: Focus on empowering your child with the necessary life skills and self-determination to navigate the world. Encourage their autonomy, decision-making, and self-advocacy abilities, as these are invaluable qualities for their future.
Celebrate Milestones: Find joy in celebrating the unique milestones and achievements your child reaches along their journey. Whether it’s mastering a new skill, making a meaningful connection, or taking steps toward their personal goals, each milestone is a cause for celebration.