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3 Ways to Begin Living in the Present

lady looking off in distance

It seems as if we are always in a rush. We are in a rush to get out of the door in the mornings. We are in a rush to get our children to school and to their extra-curricular activities. We are in a rush to get to work and then we are in a rush to get back home. And when we are not rushing from here to there, we have our faces in our cell phones either on social media or texting away. I am guilty of this and many of you probably are also.

It has only been very recently that I have come to the realization that my thoughts are often on my past or future but not often on the present moment. There is a lot of joy to be had and lessons to be learned in the present moment. Here are a few ways to stay in the moment and enjoy the journey of life.

Making Peace With Your Past

It is hard to live in the present moment when you are constantly looking behind you.  Past hurts, regrets, what ifs, and bad choices can rob you of the joy of living in the moment. It is critical that you make peace with your past so that you can move forward. What does make peace with your past look like? It looks different for different people. Your past experiences, whether good or bad, helped shape you into the person you are today. You cannot always erase memories, but you can make the conscious decision to not allow past experiences to hold you hostage.  Some experiences or memories may be so painful that you may need the help of a therapist to assist you in moving past them. Do whatever needs to be done to move forward so that you can enjoy the journey of life.

Know Your Destination But Enjoy the Process

As my daughter is starting to research and narrow down her college choices, the goal is to choose the college that is the best fit for her.  I am having to constantly remind myself not to rush through the process. I want to enjoy every moment. If you have a goal set for yourself, try to remember to enjoy the process. We often go through the motions with are minds on the destination but there are memories to be made in the present moment when you are working towards the goal. Remember to slow down and enjoy the process as you work towards your goals.

Discover What You Can Offer Others

Everybody has a story to tell. Most people’s story can serve as a lesson to others. I have learned many lessons in my lifetime that can help people, but the lesson was always realized in hindsight. Taking your time through life will allow you to recognize the lessons, good or bad, in what you are going through. Life is a series of lessons for yourself as well as lessons that you can share with others. Sometimes the lesson is to take care of your health before you end up in the hospital. Other times, the lesson is not everyone or every issue is worthy of your time and energy.  Being able to get the lesson in real time can put you in a better position to cope in the present. This could help others benefit from the lesson and avoid unneccessary hardships.

In our fast-paced society, slowing down is a challenge. There will be times when you will have to consciously tell yourself to slow down. There are moments when I wish I had slowed down and really relished the moment. And then there are times when I wish I had slowed down long enough to get the lesson in the moment instead of realizing the lesson later.  I am getting better at this, but I am by no means there yet. It takes time and conscious effort but learning to enjoy the journey of life is a practice we should all strive for.

Do you feel like you are enjoying the journey of life? If so, comment below and share some things that you do to ensure that you are living in the moment.

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The Special Needs Journey: Accepting Your New Reality

The joys of parenthood.  What comes to your mind when I read these words?  Images of fun and happy occasions such as games, recitals, and birthday parties probably fill your mind. As a parent of a child with special needs, these “joys of parenthood” can sometimes look different, are delayed, or do not happen at all.  This is the realization that many parents of special needs children eventually come to and it is often a hard and painful realization. 

My 12-year-old son received his autism diagnosis at the age of 3. Being a social worker, I knew it was critical to get him the appropriate services as quickly as possible.  I was prepared to advocate on his behalf to ensure that he got the services he needed but I was not as prepared for the impact that his diagnosis would have on the family.  The journey is often unpredictable and some of us sometimes feel as if we are traveling this road alone. 

Allow Yourself Time to Grieve

Grieve sounds like a strong word but that is exactly what you need to allow yourself time to do when you have been informed of your child’s diagnosis.  Just as you would grieve a loved one who has passed, you must allow yourself time to grieve the parenting experience that you thought you would have.  By not allowing yourself the time to properly process the diagnosis, you run the risk of becoming angry, resentful, and envious of those who can experience a more typical parenting experience.  All these emotions can lead to you become stuck and not able to fully enjoy the parenting experience that you will have.  Despite your experience being different, it can still be very enjoyable and fulfilling.  Every emotion is a valid one so allow yourself to feel every emotion – do not suppress any emotion.  Allowing yourself to process these feelings honestly will help you move through this process. 

Get Moving

Now, this may sound like a direct contradiction of my first suggestion (and you may even still be in the grieving stage at this point) but you must begin doing what you need to do for your child as well as yourself.  You will need to educate yourself on your child’s diagnosis and prognosis.  What will your child need?  Therapists?  A special diet or bed? Periodic hospital stays?  Getting a realistic picture of what your child will need will help you with being able to mentally prepare for the road ahead.  While ensuring that your child has everything, do not forget yourself.  There are many support groups online as well as in the community for parents who have a child with almost any diagnosis you can think of.  Consider joining some of these groups to get a better understanding of the diagnosis as well as what you can expect next from people who have been where you are.  Look into financial assistance from the government as well as assistance through private agencies.  This assistance can assist you with paying for therapy, camps, specialized beds, and much more.   Taking advantage of this assistance can take a lot of stress off you especially if you were not financially prepared for everything your child will need.

Accept Your New Reality

It is an understatement to say that the life of a parent with a special needs child is different than the life of a parent without one.  Depending on the type of diagnosis, there may be some things that you were able to do as a family before that you may not be able to do once you have a child with special needs.  After my son who has autism was born, my new reality was that we could no longer go to events that were held in open spaces because he would take off running.  Basketball games or fireworks shows were also off-limits because my son had a sensitivity to loud noise.  Your new reality could be that you find that your family must have an iron-clad routine, or your child will meltdown.  Or your reality may mean that you spend as much – if not more – time at the hospital as you do at home.  Whatever your new reality looks like, embrace it.  Embracing this new reality will help you with knowing what “normal” looks like for your family. Once you come to know what your normal is, your child’s diagnosis will become easier to manage.

As with any parent, the parent of a child with special needs will tell you that their child is their world and that they are very proud to be their parent.  But being a parent of a child with special needs also comes with a unique set of challenges and difficulties.   Hopefully, these three suggestions can help so that you can fully experience the joys of parenthood.

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, how did you navigate the first few days, weeks, and months following the diagnosis? What things would you add to this list?