Let’s talk about preparing our kids for real life. Have you heard that expressions before?
“We need to prepare our kids for real life” or “In the real world your child won’t be able to do that”
I genuinely thought that was my job, to prepare my child for real life. I forgot to acknowledge that this actual point in time is my child’s real life.
It really hit me hard when my child told me that life was just too hard and they had had enough of life. My heart broke and I immediately sprang into action. I booked psychology appointments, hospital referrals, seeking support from allied health professionals. I had one message to them all, help my child. It wasn’t easy and it really was not making a significant difference until I did this one thing. I stopped and started acknowledging the present real life.
What actually happens when we forget about the now?
My child’s life had snowballed into this demand driven entity. They had to go to school, they had to do well in school, they had to have friends, they had to learn how to follow directions, they had to play sport, see where I am going with this? That expectation of what my child should be doing was driven by own perceptions. I was following the cues of other parents, and of course the school. My child just could not cope with all these demands that did not come naturally. Ultimately falling in a heap and thinking life is way too hard.
Teachers were telling me things like, my child did not complete assessments tasks on time, or that they did not participate in sport. We even worked on strategies to improve this. But I stopped and asked my child one simple question, this is the single question that changed my whole world and my child’s world for the better. I asked,
“Why do you not like sport?”
and the answer blew me away.
“I do not like sport because I have to interact with other kids, and it is hard work”
What I did next may seem dramatic.
It was in that moment I pulled my child out of sport class. Teachers and others immediately told me that this was a bad idea. Claiming “You can’t just give in because your child doesn’t like things” or “what will happen in the real world when they get a job they do not like?” My answer “They will quit, because no job is worth my child feeling like life is not worth living”
I now see that by accommodating my child’s very valid needs, they are happier, healthier and 1000% better. Their emotional and physical needs are being met and they no longer see life as a burden. Sure my child is not going to be that social butterfly sports star who has a public speaking job. After all that is my dream not theirs. Who are we to say what brings happiness to others. My child loves being online and to them this is social connecting. They also do well interacting with family who understands and accepts them. By creating choice leads to safe supportive spaces, my child has thrived. My child interacts with others willingly, as it is now a choice rather than a demand to socialise and participate.
So what should preparing our kids for real life really mean?
As for preparing our kids for the real world, this means spruiking autism acceptance. Encouraging employers to accept and cater for the needs of autistic individuals. By acknowledging this their productivity and contribution will be far more valuable and productive. High school students who have the option of 3 years to complete studies will thrive and excel. The pressures and demands are offset by acceptance and acknowledgment of their needs. Preschoolers or primary aged kids who are given choices on participating in class plays or excursions. Just giving kids choice can help them immensely, so they can accommodate their own needs and tolerances. Instead of forcing them to conform we encourage the world around them to adapt. I have learnt to and taught others how to acknowledge my child’s needs. I am also constantly battling school to accept that my child does not have to follow the norm, and it will not ultimately impact their life in a negative way. I feel like I am constantly battling a system not built for my child.
It will always be my goal to have healthy happy child rather than a child who wants life to end. And if my child does not want to go to university that is ok, if my child can not do scored year 12, that’s OK. Life is now good and the future looks damn bright.
I always say my child’s life is far more valuable alive and without mental health issues than they are being dead with a resume filled with achievements.