Things have been very busy around our place. Our oldest is in a Big Life Transition. Going from a teen to an adult. Yes, she’s graduating and she has turned 18! This has not been an easy transition. Graduating can be very exciting, but for our girl, it is bringing a whole bunch of stress and feelings with it.
There is definitely fun stuff going on in the graduating year. She has been on a grad cruise, dinners, dress shopping, and fashion shows. Soon there will be ceremonies and celebrations.
The bigger hurdle has been expectations and a big part of that has been expectations that have been put on her from herself. There is an underlying expectation that since she is older and graduating, she should have it all figured out and the areas where she requires extra support should be miraculously gone. Then there’s the other stuff. All the questions.
- the what ifs?
- what now?
- what does my future look like?
- what’s next?
- do I move?
- what if I’m not ready?
- what if I can’t make it?
- do I have to do life on my own?
These are the things that have been voiced to us and I’m sure there are other things running through her mind.
To help ease some of these anxieties, we continue to reassure and go over the plan. (Because we do have a plan.) We try chunk this big transition into smaller manageable moments as much as possible. Even as small as just looking at today or this week, but keeping the big picture in mind (and knowing that plans may change). Routine has been important. We keep her routine as consistent as possible and try not to change too much in our daily lives. The more she can see that life has familiarity, the easier day to day will be. Keeping these anxious and worried feelings at bay is not an easy task, especially since there are so many steps to this transition and it’s also right there at the forefront.
There has been lots and lots of paperwork and continued sharing of information. This part has added extra pressure to our child’s anxiety and feelings. Yet, this can’t be avoided. The challenges that she has, due to her disability, has become the focus of this process and we see her struggling with not being “good enough”. She is so good enough and most likely would benefit from us telling her this doubly more in a variety of ways.
A family member commented to me, “Try to see what this is like for her. Even if you struggle with things, would you really want to hear it?” No, I wouldn’t. I’m sure most of us wouldn’t. I truly can’t fully understand the vastness of what this is like for. I have a different brain, I’m in a different season of my life and each of us experiences feelings in our own way, but I can try to visualize and imagine. It would be hard for me to hear where I was needing help and what I struggle with.
Patience in this process for her and for the services that we are trying to set up has been an important part of surviving this time. I often have to remind myself that this is a scary thing for her. Even though I know that all will most likely be OK, she doesn’t.
Accessing services for her for adulthood has resulted in lots of questions and paperwork. It has been so daunting. We have to prove that services are needed. Which brings me to another thing that I have to remind myself, the person on the other end does not know my child. They have no idea what she needs and what type of support will be best. So we advocate, educate and be persistent. My advice for anyone starting this process would be to keep track of everything:
- doctors’ letters and reports
- report cards
- dates services were applied for
- copies of the applications
- numbers, emails, and names of individuals that you spoke with
- supports you already access
I have found having this all in one place very useful, either in a binder of a file folder.
Since the challenges have been such a focus, turning the spotlight on what she can do well has become that much more important. We will have to be more diligent in voicing the great things that are happening. Truly there are many great things. Pointing out the great successes that she is having and showing her the progress that she has made, along with sharing this with others, will help fill up her bucket. This is exciting! This is an accomplishment! She’s graduating and that is something great celebrate!
We are in the middle of this process and I suspect we are going to have to weather this storm a little bit longer. I’m looking forward to the moment when it is realized that all will be OK.