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Three Pillars to Rebuild Confidence as a School-Age Parent

Admittedly, I’m lacking confidence as a parent at the end of this school year. Yes, school during a pandemic has been more than just confidence-shaking. But for me it has also been an unraveling of support through my first born’s early intervention journey. Let’s dig into the root cause of my distrust and discuss the top three pillars I found to boost my confidence rather than shake it.

How it Started

At my daughter’s 2.5 wellness visit her pediatrician was concerned by her lack of words, inability to make eye contact or sit cross-legged. In Colorado, once a doctor communicates red flags, the state steps in. Without me having to do a thing, I was flooded with calls to setup evaluations for my daughter. I felt supported and that there was a team of professionals that cared for us.

Trust me, I had a bunch of other big feelings too, but that is a whole other article. Let’s just say my battle cry was, “never judge a toddler!” and if you read between the lines I was also pleading, “and please don’t judge the mother too.”

After evaluations I had a team of therapists assigned to my daughter. As much as it was overwhelming to learn all of these new team members in supporting my daughter, it was very reassuring. I always had someone to go to discuss what I was experiencing and I could trust that I was receiving tested and researched recommendations to try.

The schedule of therapy appointments was difficult to keep track of and get to on time. Especially after I became a mom of two and a single-vehicle family. Regardless, I was comforted to know that I had scheduled check-ins with what I was experiencing as a parent.

How it Continued

At age three the state transfers early intervention services from individual therapists to the public preschool program. Six short months later, my confidence was shaken as I was again learning a new team to support my daughter’s special needs.

I learned how to read and participate in writing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and felt so overwhelmed. But with scheduled follow-ups on the IEP and my daughter’s progress, I also felt assured that whenever we fell off track, I had help to course correct.

If you are new to IEP’s, this article is a fabulous resource on how to prepare for one.

Once a month my daughter also attended private speech therapy. This transitioned to every other week during the summer and then she graduated out of needing this service. I remember feeling a mix of gratitude, pride and fear. I was so grateful to my daughter’s therapist. For my daughter’s progress I was full of pride. But, when it came to my first born’s development needs, I was terrified of being solo. I knew I had contact information if ever I needed anything, but it wasn’t quite the same as having a reoccurring schedule.

How it’s Going

IEP to 504 to…

My daughter started Kindergarten in a new online school for the 2020-21 school year. She did not qualify for an IEP after testing and much discussion. I appealed that she have a 504 Plan, a plan to ensure that a child with disabilities receives accommodations to support academic success. She did not qualify for a 504 Plan either after forms, more tests and more meetings.

Good news, right? This meant that early intervention worked! So why was I so shaky?

I felt like it was now all on me. There was no longer a team of professionals that consistently showed up for me and my daughter to support her learning journey. I feared that if we ever needed services again in the future, they would now be impossible to regain. I had lost my confidence as a school-age parent.

Communication = Confidence Boost

Of course none of the above was true. My daughter still had amazing teachers that were fully committed to her success and were only a call away. I learned this lesson when I didn’t know how to work with my daughter’s behavior after winter break. Getting her to do school work was like pulling teeth while kicking and screaming: Painful and pretty much impossible. I was at a loss and finally reached out to her homeroom teacher during office hours.

After one 30-minute conversation with the teacher we had a plan. And that plan worked! School was never what I would call easy, but as my mom always said, “if it was fun, they’d call it play.” It was definitely work, but it was at least interesting, engaging and I could see my daughter progressing.

Root Cause

I realized that it wasn’t a lack of confidence in the education system that was my true trigger, it was a lack of trust in myself. Looking back on this journey I can see that I never let go of the belief that I did something wrong to cause my daughter’s special needs and therefore could not be the source of what would be right.

I didn’t do anything wrong. My daughter is exactly who she is meant to be, then and now. There is no right or wrong, just learning. And, oh my, how much we have learned together!

So, now that summer is here and the upcoming school year is, yet again, full of unknowns, how do I replace this distrust with confidence? Well, here are three pillars of truth that have helped me to replace instability with steadiness.

1. Celebrate!

I truly don’t think we celebrate enough. Every small win is worthy of celebration. And we should especially recognize the big wins too. We all made it through the first full school year during a pandemic. Whether your child excelled or found that this year did not work for them, celebrate! We all showed up during a time that no one had ever experienced before. BRAVO!

2. Be Present

Whenever I start to spin-out on parenting, I remind myself that it is the moments where we are present that make memories. Taking just 10 minutes to sit with my child and play a game, read a book or have her teach me a drawing she learned from a How-to-Draw YouTube video (her current obsession) re-centers me as a person. It brings me back to what matters as a parent. It doesn’t take long to feel the rewards from this practice.

3. Stop Comparing

The cycle of comparison is an easy trap. Because we look over and the grass most definitely looks greener on the other side and we forget to take perspective into consideration.

It is easy to forget that we are all making choices that are best for ourselves, our family and our children and that means our decisions and outcomes are all going to look very different.

Rather than comparing on how everything may be different or somehow superior, I found it better to focus on what feels good and true to me and my child.

Which brings us back to #2: Take a moment to be present and ask yourself what feels true and good and then go back to #1 and celebrate that!

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates.

Nikola Reinfelds

Nikola is a Kansas native that came to Northern Colorado by way of Long Island, NY. After running a successful business in NYC she's confident that the song lyric, "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" is the truth. However, she faltered big time through the unknowns and isolation of becoming a stay at home mom. She re-found her passion and confidence by helping others be obsessed with the skin they're in through her writing, community, leadership and friendship. Her other passions include being an exceptional partner to her husband, Hagen, a patient parent to her precious children, reading #allththings and getting out in nature as much as possible.

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