Being a parent is never easy and always brings with it challenges. But a child who exhibits severe challenging behaviors on a regular basis is different. It carries with it unique challenges and is a heavy burden for a parent to carry, especially as a single mom. Here are some examples that maybe you can relate to….
You are sitting on the cold floor of Target desperately trying to calm your screaming flailing child.
You have scratch marks on your face from when your child has lost control and came at you in a blinded rage.
You have had to carry your child out of parties, events, restaurants and stores because of major meltdowns.
Your child ran away from you at the mall and couldn’t be caught until a security guard and several shoppers got involved.
Your child regularly yells at you such things as “I hate you”, “You are a bad mommy!”, “You are the worst mommy ever!”.
His bedroom has been demolished in fits of anger.
You have to leave the grocery store without any groceries for the week because your child is throwing food out of the cart and trying to jump out.
You get dirty looks and hear snide remarks about your parenting and even worse… your child.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. This is what I mean when I say “a child with challenging behaviors”. If you haven’t already guessed… these are all real-life examples (and I’m serious that I could keep going). Even if you can relate to only a couple of these, you have experienced the struggle. And the struggle is real.
Moments, days, years like this can wear you down until you have nothing left and you have reacted in ways you are ashamed to admit. You feel confused (why does he behave like this/why is this happening?) and helpless that you cannot seem to help your own child. And when you are a single mom you are dealing with all of this alone (or at least with limited support). No one is there to help when you are at your wit’s end, no one to take a turn, no one to give you a break and no one to even talk to about it. You are left feeling guilty, hopeless, and defeated.
In future posts I will share practical strategies and tools to help prevent and handle challenging behaviors like the ones above but that is for another time. For now, I just want to say to a mom of a child with challenging behaviors….
You are an incredible mom
You may not feel like it but you truly are. You face hurtful and hard challenges every day and you face them alone. But no matter what happens and no matter how challenging the situation you never give up. You handle it the best you can and then get up every single day to do it again. And through it all your love and devotion to your child does not waver. Your child’s actions and behavior (though upsetting, hurtful, frustrating) do not affect your love for him. What incredible and valuable lessons like this we are able to teach our children through such challenges.
Your child is special
It’s easy to look at the list above and see the negatives and to compare your child to other kids who don’t have these behaviors (like the little girl who is calmly sitting with her family enjoying dinner out a restaurant; while all eyes are on your son who is in full on meltdown mode). But every child is different and if you can look beyond the difficult behavior you will discover some extraordinary qualities. Your child is strong, passionate, stands up for himself, know he likes and wants, is expressive, zealous, connected to his emotions, full of life, doesn’t cave under pressure, a leader, determined, devoted, and doesn’t give up. Wow! That sounds like the makings of a pretty incredible human to me.
Be grateful (even when it’s hard)
It can be tough to be grateful when you are going through challenges but there is always always always (yes that’s 3 always) something to be grateful for. Gratitude improves your perspective and your attitude which is everything. Even after the hardest of days with my son I kiss his sleeping face and thank God for blessing me with him (not just any child but him), our health, our home, the support we do have (aka my amazing parents), and the list of what we have to be thankful for goes on and on. When we focus on the good we have in our lives it opens the door to invite even more in.
You are both so loved
Being the parent, especially a single parent, of a child with challenging behaviors can feel very isolating. Not many people get it and they just can’t relate or help (though they do offer their not so helpful advice like “just tell him to stop/listen/be good”). Such challenging behaviors also make going out with your child more difficult, so it happens less often. There are a lot of things we can’t do and places we can’t go because I know it will be too much for my son. If we do go out all of my attention needs to be on him and often we have to leave early (or he has an intense and challenging incident that brings a lot of stress and judgment). All this to say how isolating it can be. But I want to tell you right now God sees you and knows your struggle. You are not forgotten and you are so so loved. Stop for a moment and close your eyes. Think about, feel, how much you love your child (A LOT right??). Well, God’s love for you (and your child) surpasses even that! So in the midst of the struggle, don’t forget how deeply loved you are.
This too shall pass
There is a time and season for everything and nothing lasts forever. Even when the challenges have lasted for what seems like forever things can still improve and get better. I promise, there is hope ahead. In those hard moments remember No matter how fierce the storm the sky will clear and the sun will shine again. Your sun will shine again.
So mom of a child with challenging behavior, know you are not alone. Both you and your child are so valuable and incredible. Even in the midst of the trial you have so much to be thankful for and you will get through this. There is hope and help to come.
*I wanted to add this note. I wrote this article back in January but somehow must have forgotten to press post (oops!). After a very rough night with my son (having to leave a birthday party early because of a major incident due to challenging behaviors), I was looking through my old posts and stumbled across this; and it was just what I needed to hear. What a sweet blessing and needed reminder! I hope these words can be an encouragement and blessing to you as well.
Leave a comment if you can relate to the challenges above. We are in this together mommas!