Parenting a Child with Hearing Loss? Look after your own needs first

women bonding“Look after your own needs as a parent, before you look after the needs of your child.” “Put your oxygen mask on first, and then help your child.” How many times have we heard these platitudes, only to shrug them off and get back to our work of raising a child with hearing loss?

Parenting a child with special needs often blurs the line between where our needs end and the needs of our children begin. We become focused on achieving 30 additional minutes of speech a week, or on having the insurance company pay for an FM system. Our frustration of the present becomes intertwined with the hope we have for the future and some days there are more grey skies than sunshine.

But for the past two days I took some time out to look after my own needs and was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Clarke Mainstream Conference in Springfield, MA. For two days I listened to incredibly passionate teachers and researchers talk about their work and how it impacts the education of children with hearing loss. I was entertained and inspired by Justin Osmond (yes one of those Osmonds!) as he talked about his challenges growing up as a child with profound hearing loss and the amazing work he does today in bringing sound to others. (Learn more about his foundation here.)

But one of the most powerful parts of the conference was the parent lunch I attended. It sounds simple enough – put out some sandwiches and iced tea for parents, maybe they will spend some time chitchatting. But it was something way beyond that! I didn’t get a chance to speak with every parent at the lunch, but the three other women I shared a table with were wonderful. The ages of our children ran the gamut from 3 ½ – 20 years old. In that brief hour that was set aside – we laughed, we cried, we marveled at each other’s strengths, we shared stories, we exchanged email addresses, and we created a connection.

Sometimes it feels as if we are raising our children in silos. Our child is often the only one in the school with hearing loss and sometimes the only one in the district. While our friends and family can offer us support and sympathy, they don’t truly understand. One conference session I went too talked about the importance of having your child connect with other children with hearing loss – because the barriers aren’t there – there is a relief in seeing other kids with hearing aids and implants. I think that is just as true for parents; there was a relief sitting down and not having to explain my child, everyone at that table already understood.

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  1. I love, love this post, Krysty! Knowing that we aren’t alone, makes all of us better, healthier parents. And taking time to nurture those connections with people who “get” where you’re coming from makes such a difference in our spiritual health.

    • Krysty says:

      Thanks Christa! We often think that parenting has to be so complicated, but it was this simple act of sitting down with other parents that made such a great impression.

  2. Martha deHahn says:

    I also attended the luncheon at the Clarke Mainstream Conference. I’ve attended this conference for many years and this was the first time I attended a luncheon specially set aside for parents. It was just wonderful! There was a certain level of energy in the room, yet also immediate connections. Regardless of having a 2 1/2 year old or 22 year old, “making connections” with parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing has always been valuable for me and this luncheon – during a day of worthy workshops – was a good place to put everything else aside and enjoy one another’s company yet continue to support one another. I feel fortunate to have been part of the day!

    • Krysty says:

      Hi Martha, thank you for your comment! You said it so well – often when you are busy rushing around a conference you don’t take the time to put anything aside, you are just busy absorbing. I thought the lunch was a really important space to just chill and connect…

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