Everyone Thinks I Am a Bad Parent

Bad Parent

If you're the parent of a special needs kid, I'm willing to bet a million dollars that, at some point, you've had this thought: ‘That person over there thinks I am a bad parent.'

Am I right? If that thought (or something similar) hasn't maliciously danced in your head at some point, please let us know your secret! Because these thoughts are truly devastating and destructive.

I know I have felt them at some point. I suspect you have, too.

Non-Verbal Judgment

That certainty – that other parents are watching us and finding us lacking – is in the stare of the mom across the parking lot. The perceived look of disapproval from the guy in the grocery store. The school secretary's coolness when we drop off our son's forgotten homework sheet – again.

Every single parent I work with is convinced that they are being judged by other parents. It is far and away one of the most difficult obstacles parents of complex kids face; and ironically, it's the one challenge that often has no basis in reality or fact.

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Get the Facts

Think about it – when our kids were diagnosed, we took them to multiple physicians, therapists and educators to make sure we had accurate information before moving forward. We needed evidence, facts and supporting paperwork in place before we put a plan of action together.

So why is it, when it comes to evaluating and assessing other people's opinions, we rely solely on our perception? And more often than not, we're completely wrong.

There are at least three good reasons why you're probably misreading the signs:

1. You may have Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Since ADHD is genetic, odds are one parent has ADHD also. If that parent happens to be you, you may also have something called “rejection sensitive dysphoria.” RSD is a ‘triggered, wordless emotional pain that occurs after a real or perceived loss of approval, love or respect.' (Source: Attention Magazine, Oct. 2016, William W. Dodson, MD)

That means whenever you perceive you're being criticized or slighted in some way (even if it's not actually happening,) you are more likely to lash out dramatically, or fall into a deep and devastating depression. Adults with RSD can sound paranoid (‘they're always judging me!'), or feel like they need to apologize all the time. If this sounds familiar, learn more about how RSD manifests in your life, and get some support to counteract the effects.

2. You are not a Mind Reader: Let's face it – you have no idea what's actually going on in parking-lot-Mom's head. School-secretary may have just found out that another student's grandma died and she's trying to keep her emotions in check. Or, maybe her favorite team lost a big game last night. Who knows for sure? You don't!

So how does it help to tell yourself a story that's not true? It doesn't, right? What would happen if you changed the story you're telling yourself in your head? If you told yourself that parking-lot-Mom looks annoyed because she just found out she has to stay late at work tonight (and not because your kid ran screeching by her on his way to you). You get to create the story you tell yourself, so make it something good!

3. You are not that important. This one may feel like a slap in the face, but stay with me. I know to your family, friends and colleagues, you are a critically important person. But to the rest of the world? To the strangers in the grocery store? Not so much. Think of all the things that are running through your head when you're picking up your kids, or running into the store. Chances are, you're pretty preoccupied with what's going on in your life, too.

Now, consider the possibility that everyone else in the parking lot, store, or restaurant is just as preoccupied with their lives as you are. You don't have time for them, and they don't have time for you! Isn't that awesome!!?

Life with our complex kids can be ridiculously crazy. Most of the time we have little to no control over what happens at school, work or home, so the last thing we need to be worrying about is whether someone else thinks we are a bad parent.

We have power over our minds. We get to choose whatever story we want to tell ourselves. So choose to use your powers for good. Be good to yourself, leave the judging to the courts, and forget about the parking lot, completely!

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