Being a parent of a child on the autism spectrum is a very painful and emotional experience for most of us, regardless of the age of our loved one.
Sometimes when the anxiety or difficulty with the world overtakes our loved ones on the spectrum, we see behaviors that we know are an indicator they are hurting: chewing on shirts until there are holes in them; stressful humming and rocking; or panicky meltdowns. Shutting down completely, or claiming “…I don’t care!” at the top of their lungs.
Other times, particularly as the child ages and matures to some degree, the pain is not as easily spotted to the outside world, but as parents, we can see it clearly. The loneliness, the disappointment, the lack of engagement in the world born of frustration and despair.
And sometimes it seems like the simplest of life events set off this painful struggle that we are witnessing.
Our loved one’s suffering is bound to create an emotional reaction in us.
The “What Ifs”
On top of the sheer agony and anger we often feel, we worry about the future…. Will she ever be able to have friends…? Will he be able to get through school…? Will she be able to hold a job and support himself…? Will he ever find love and get married…? What will become of him when I am not here to provide a safe haven for him to live in…? What if…? What if…? What if…???!
We worry about whether or not our parenting is good enough, which just further catapults us into a negative emotional state.
Our boundaries become weaker in our self-doubt and confusion, and weaker still when we are just exhausted.
Many of us shut down from self-doubt or overwhelm, unable to respond because of uncertainty or fear. We may simply feel too emotionally exhausted to formulate any reasonable response. Sometimes we even snap temporarily because we just run out of grit.
“As our teenager or young adult ages, we become newly aware of the challenges adulthood presents.“
I can’t tell you how many times I have emotionally collapsed when I should have stuck more ardently to a boundary, only to doubt myself later and wonder if I actually am causing him harm by not being tougher and strictly adhering to my boundary.
As our teenager or young adult ages, we become newly aware of the challenges adulthood presents. Often what worked before begins to be less effective.
Then we wonder, should I protect him…? And in doing so, am I failing him by keeping him from learning something he needs to learn?
These are treacherous parental tightropes for moms and dads with young adults on the spectrum.
Parental boundaries are very tricky for any parent and our own emotions can play into how effective we are at reducing our child’s stress, confusion and pain.
That’s true regardless of the age of our child. Whatever part of the journey with autism you are in, it’s hard to watch your child suffer, struggle, feel disappointed and hurt by what happens in their world.
This is true whether your child is 10 or 18 or 22 or 32.
If your child is nearing a time when he or she needs to be more independent, there is so much you can discover that will support you in both managing your own emotions, and helping your child reach independence more quickly and with less struggle.