- dr Kelly Fradin is the author of a book about raising children in difficult situations.
- She is a Harvard-trained pediatrician and mother of two.
- This is her story as told to Kelly Burch.
This essay is based on a conversation with Dr. Kelly Fradin, a pediatrician who wrote the book Advanced Parenting: Advice for Helping Kids Through Diagnoses, Differences, and Mental Health Challenges, due out April 11. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.
After surviving childhood cancer, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Through my work as a pediatrician, I have encountered many families who have faced challenges ranging from mental illness to learning differences to physical ailments. I started thinking about the mothers and fathers of these children who are doing “advanced parenting.” While all parenting is difficult, these families have additional challenges.
But if you look through the bookshelves, a lot of parenting advice relates to the same milestones: getting your baby to sleep, getting your toddler potty trained, getting your teen to communicate. That leaves a huge gap for parents looking for specific skills to handle the unexpected.
I have seen time and time again that parents who have gone through an advanced parenting situation were better prepared when the next challenge presented itself. I started talking to parents to learn what skills and resources helped them. I have put them together in my book, which will be published in the spring.
Families in difficult situations should not have to live and learn. Here are five tips from parents and professionals who’ve been through advanced parenting to help you get through the tough times.
As a parent, you are the expert on your child. In our healthcare and education systems, a power dynamic is giving professionals the upper hand. But you know what is best for your child and family. Don’t be intimidated by the people around you.
Focus on the big picture
When dealing with a new diagnosis or an unexpected development in your family, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details. Instead, try to focus on the big picture and the long term. How will this development affect the values of your child and family? If you think about it, you can decide how to allocate your resources.
It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to try every recommended solution, therapy, or treatment right away. When we’re going through a tough time, it’s easy for the wheels of family life to stop turning while we focus on solving the problem. But it’s important to give kids time to be kids.
Acknowledge the negative feelings
Being a parent in a situation you didn’t anticipate can bring sadness, frustration, and other negative emotions. But parents often bury them, fearing that acknowledging their negative feelings will lessen their love for their children.
I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. It’s okay to have negative emotions when things aren’t going the way you imagined. It’s important to share these feelings with a therapist, friend, or partner. Tell them you don’t need solutions – you just need to express your feelings.
You take care
When you focus on your child, it’s easy to put your health and well-being on the back burner. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re less able to cope with the trauma of advanced parenthood. When you take care of yourself, you can be a more effective parent and be the advocate your child needs.
follow dr Kelly Fradin on Instagram at @adviceigivemyfriends And pre-order her book on her website.