I had some thoughts today about how to help parents who have children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FAS FASD). I am reading an article in the Journal of Biblical Counseling that points out the similarities in counseling and parenting. This particular volume has several articles focusing on family relationships, especially that of parent and child. The titles include : Helping the Parents of an Angry Child; Angry Teens; Counseling the Adopted Child; and Helping the Grieving Child or Teenager. (Journal of Biblical Counseling Winter 2007 Vol. 25 Number 1) I haven't completed my studies in the journal and so I cannot begin to write a proper synthesis of the various issues addressed, all of which I think may be helpful to parents of FAS or FASD children. But then, these topics aren't exclusive to FAS and FASD children.
I was blessed with raising some wonderful children in a unique set of circumstances. My sister died leaving behind 5 terrific kids. I had the honor of raising two of them. I have been thinking about what I needed to be an effective parent and what helped my kidlets thrive. One of the things that helped them is when people stopped treating them like' special needs' kids and started treating them like kids. In other words, people feeling sorry for my kidlets was not helpful. People making accommodations for their misbehavior by ignoring it was not helpful. I got the most help from folks who treated my kids like they were precious gems in puckish settings and were willing to help me shape their character.
It was difficult for me to determine how much to tell people about my kids. I didn't want them to be labeled but I did want people to know they had been through trauma. I didn't want trusted adults and friends to withhold discipline. Rather, I wanted them to be careful administers of discipline and love. It occurs to me that parents of FAS or FASD children must have a similar difficulty. People need to be aware of your child's difficulty with certain behaviors but they must not accept whatever behavior the child offers. Patience and the ability to redirect are essential qualities working with FAS/FASD children while corporal punishment seldom works as it very often escalates tension and precipitates outbursts.
Hope and resources for assistance are the primary tools stressed parents need. Hope in the God who changes hearts. Hope in the God who changes circumstance. Hope in a Savior who is not bound by what the world sets as limitations for a child. Parents of special needs children need advocates. They need understanding and informed friends who are willing to watch a difficult child for a few hours so they can regroup and recharge their souls. They need people who are willing to fight for them while they are busy parenting their children. Too little is known about FAS/FASD so teachers, officers and the general public are too often quick to pass judgment on both parent and child. Parents can feel tremendous guilt about their children's difficulties- especially adoptive parents who were sure they could love their son or daughter enough to overcome FAS/FASD.
All children are black holes of need, FAS/FASD children seem to have denser gravity than most. It's not so much that FAS/FASD children need different parenting, they need exponentially more of it over most of their lifetime. However, they tend to be oppositional and defiant to such a degree that they often do not accept the parenting they are offered no matter how lovingly it is administered. These parents need encouragement and help protecting their hearts from feeling like failures when their children reject their love and rebel against God and all boundaries.
If you're interested in helping parents of FAS/FASD children, or adopting an FAS/FASD child, you may find this site informative, heartbreaking and encouraging. The heartbreak for me is that this is preventable. The statistics in this power point presentation are mind blowing to me, though I haven't any way of researching their accuracy.
I am still searching for answers, Vicki. Don't give up on me yet!