Let’s face it, we all dread the thought of dealing with a difficult situation when out in public.
I know my stomach plummets when certain, seemingly insignificant, events unfold when we’re out and about.
A passing balloon. A baby crying. A sudden noxious odour. A burst of loud laughter. Someone unexpectedly rushing past.
I know any and all these things can spark a public spectacle of epic proportions in my family. Anywhere. Anytime.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, particularly when you’re busy, have all your kids with you and don’t have the time or energy to deal with an outburst, right then and there.
I bet you can think of more than one instance of trying to calm down your child, in vain, as those around you watched in growing judgment.
As a special needs parent I’ve had more than my fair share of public situations, like our ill-fated birthday party experience or the time I had my own mummy meltdown following a traumatic visit to the local supermarket.
It’s never easy but after more than 13 years experience, I’ve finally learned how to best manage public situations as a special needs parent.
You know what I do?
I keep my eyes on my child.
Deceptively simple, huh? Yet, deceptively difficult to practice.
It’s taken me longer than it should have but I’ve finally let go of the embarrassment, the sense of obligation towards others and the shame of being the focus of judgment and unwanted attention. Because they’re the worst aspects of managing a public situation, aren’t they?
Shutting out the stares, the murmurs and the judgment means I can fully concentrate on the needs of my child. It means I’m not distracted or made even more anxious by the reactions of others.
It means I can give my child what they need in that moment of overwhelm – reassurance, support, deep pressure, protection and my full attention.
For too long I paid too much attention to what others thought of us, of my child and of my parenting.
For too long I felt the need to apologise to others and explain our family situation to complete strangers.
For too long I wished I could take my family out in public without fear of outbursts, meltdowns and upset.
Not anymore. I have no problem in dealing with my child’s needs, then and there. However long it takes and however strange it may look to others.
When you think about it, the strangers around us are only in our lives for a fleeting moment. In the scheme of things, drawing attention to ourselves for a while is little more than a momentary diversion for these people.
However, my kids are my world. We are in it together for the long haul. They deserve the best of me, particularly when they’re in most need of my help. Especially when they’re at their most vulnerable.
So, when they lose control in a public place, I keep my eyes on my child.
I make sure my other kids are okay and my child is in a safe place. Then, I take a deep breath, consciously ignore everyone around me and I concentrate on helping my child through this moment.
It’s not always easy but it’s always worth it.
How do you manage public situations as a special needs parent?
This post is part of a Parenting a Child with Special Needs blog hop where myself and other special needs bloggers share our thoughts on a set theme each month. This month’s theme is “managing public situations.” I’d love for you to check out all the other posts linked up for this month!
10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child | Every Star is Different
7 Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Special Needs Child | The Chaos and The Clutter
Dear Mom at the Park | This Outnumbered Mama
How to Teach Kids the Social Skill of Think it or Say it | And Next Comes L
Dear Mom Who Is Afraid to Leave Her House | Kori at Home
Navigating the Store with a Child with Sensory or Anxiety Issues | The Chaos and The Clutter
How to Help a Mom When Her Child Suffers a Public Meltdown I Finding the Golden Gleam