SUPPORTed Parenting.

We are far from perfect parents and even farther from the parents I thought we would be, but I gotta say I love learning and improving at this parenting gig as we grow with our kids.

Here is the thing, when we had Rowen diagnosed about a year and a half ago and we were presented with so many opportunities for help we jumped at the chance to have advice at figuring out how to best support Rowen. What I don’t think I realized is how important support is for everyone and anyone, including us as parents.

This past week has had me missing my Uncle and thinking about what a big part he had in supporting us as we were growing up (and even into our adult years). He always loved to say he didn’t get to where he was without help. I admired him and all his accomplishments and realize now how right he was. No one can be successful without the right supports.

So, as we are nearing our first child entering Kindergarten and have ended his preschool years it has me thinking ahead to new ways we can support him in this new chapter.

Rowen, like many children, takes time to warm up to new routines, people and places and does better in smaller groups or with someone there to feel connection with. This is what I call a support, making sure we prepare him the best we can and give him the things we know make him most comfortable in his next chapter.

For most of his preschool years he had a support worker, who in the beginning was helping him with a lot, and towards the end of the year was able to back away and have Row do most things independently. The thing about support in any form is that it doesn’t mean you are incompetent or that you are less then someone else, it just means you learn and work differently. How amazing would it be if we all had the right support in place, the things we would all accomplish and feel.

I guess I am just super grateful that in the stage of life we are in right now we have enough time and a little bit of money to be able to provide Rowen, really all of our kids, with the support we think will help them to succeed.

Support can look different for everyone but I will speak to the support we are providing Rowen with. I will admit that providing Rowen with the support we felt is best has come at a cost, so we have had to trade off things to be able to accommodate some of these choices. The thing is life is about compromise and priorities and having kids is no different, just part of growing up and parenting!

So, first in regards to Kindergarten, this has been a scary step for me as I have always dreaded my kids going into Elementary school. I think part of my fears came around knowing it could be a tough transition for Rowen and we had already struggled with preschool and really a lot of programs with him. Plus the fact that it is fairly routine and means being organized in the morning and giving up our sporadic fun days. However I am incredibly proud of my son for making such progress that we are entering Elementary School with his peers.

Support to transition to Kindergarten actually started months ago and has included having “extra” preschool mornings where he has gone in and joined his class at activities at his Elementary School. I love that his preschool offers this and does Kinder-buddies, where the kids are actually in there future classrooms with there future teachers and playing with the older kids. They also do Grade 6 buddies and finally they do Hymn in the gym with the whole class, so they have experienced a sort of assembly. I think this is unique to our school as our preschool and elementary school are somewhat connected, and are also private. However I wish more schools were able to do some form of this for transitioning kids moving from preschool to elementary school as this is such a natural transition and gives the kids time in a really comfortable way to adapt.

Recently we ordered Rowens uniforms so he has time to touch, see and try them on and get used to the idea that this is what he will wear to school.

The biggest thing that I am super impressed by and really excited about is the parent night we attended. This was a huge support to me, that now means I am better able to support Rowen. We were given individual packages with specific activities to each child based on an assessment they did with the Kindergarten teacher. These activities are things we can do through out the summer to get him ready for Kindergarten. His package also included a picture book showing Rowen his actual classroom, school, teacher, principal, sensory room, gym, gym teacher and really anyone he will see regularly. It was amazing. In addition we have met the teacher he will have, the classes are already assigned and he was paired up with one of his favourite friends as another support to help make them both feel comfortable. Rowen will have a full time support worker who in the beginning will make sure to meet Rowen at the school door each day and we are arriving a little later than the rest of the school to avoid the big crowds and loud noises, this was the schools suggestion and one I appreciate so much. Plus, his modified entry schedule has already been give to us for the first week of school and is specific to him and his needs including accommodating his other program he attends.

I think the fact that Rowen is able to have a full time support worker through his first year of school is really going to be a game changer for us. Rowen is an big emotions guys and supporting him can not only be a full time job but it can also be exhausting and draining. I cannot imagine an Kindergarten teacher being able to manage all the kids in her class and give Row the attention he sometimes needs.

These all seem like simple ideas but I know that these simple ideas are not always the case when it comes to school and that you have to be proactive and assertive to get some of these things. I am so grateful for the ease this is making starting Kindergarten as we all know with kids there are already so many unknowns and surprises. I appreciate the support our school is already giving us and Rowen and can not wait to see what else is to come.

We are also so well supported in his other programs, OT and ABA are always helping us with stuff at home or coming up with ways we can support Rowen to attend school stuff that he might find difficult, birthday parties and the latest is joining a Rugby team. Sometimes the support we give Rowen is just sitting with him at these events and letting him know we are there for him if he needs us and we can just watch until he wants to take part. I am amazed at how this technique has recently allowed us to participate in Sports Day, to walk across the stage at his little graduation and then sit up with his peers and sing some songs, and so much more.

For other parents who are in the trenches and struggling with whatever life is thrown you remember you do not have to be in this alone, always ask for help when you need it! Support is more than just for our kids and it is amazing what is accomplished when we are all supported. We all get frustrated or have big expectations but do not forget how little our children are and try to adjust our expectations or give them some support… maybe its giving them more time, or an extra hug or knowing they don’t have to do everything independently at first, they are still learning. Every child is different, so they will have different needs but trust your extinct no one knows your child better than you!

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