Giving Our Children Gifts for a Lifetime: Using Tough Situations as Teachable Moments
by Lisa C. Greene
A mom of a ten-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis (CF) shared her experience of how her son had been "interrogated," without permission, about his medical condition by two school psychologists. They wanted very detailed information including what kinds of medications he was taking, how much, and the specifics of his medical status.
Of course this loving mother was very upset and justifiably so. Who wouldn't be? After getting feedback from others within the CF community, she decided to go to the school administration and register a complaint. It's worth saying that this happened in another country, not America, so our laws here might protect our children from this sort of thing. But that's not the point of this writing.
As I ponder her story, it strikes me that she was lucky this happened. Yes, you read this right- lucky. She is lucky because now she can teach and model to her son how to:
1. Handle the situation well without being victimized by it.
2. Deal with conflict in a healthy manner.
3. Have an opportunity to experience together the challenges of life with CF that he will face out in the "real world" as an adult.
This story reminds me that as parents, it's the "little" experiences in life that add up to shape and mold who our children ultimately become. If this loving mother simply rants, raves, and complains to everyone who will listen, it is quite possible that she will raise a child who does the same. He will become a victim of his CF.
If this mom goes into the school demanding "restitution" or threatening lawsuits, this child will begin to think he's entitled and will learn that being demanding and threatening is how to resolve problems (good luck to his future wife and children).
And if this mother goes to the school with a curious, open, assertive (not to be confused with aggressive), and collaborative attitude, then she will give her son great gifts: wisdom, the ability to work out problems with others, and a "can-do" attitude.
Here are some examples of some things she might consider saying during the meeting with the school administrators:
"I am sure you thought you had a good reason to interview my son about his medical condition and I'm curious about what that might be."
"Is there some reason that you chose not to speak with me about it first?"
"Are there any issues with my son here at school that led you to feel the need to get his detailed medical information?"
"In the future, I would like to know about such interviews before they occur. If you feel like you need to speak with my son privately, I am open to that as long as we discuss it first."
"I would like you to get my permission before you interview him in such a manner again."
"My son feels really uncomfortable about what happened. I'd like for us to have a discussion with him to process what happened."
Handling these types of moments is never easy but unfortunately, life is filled with them whether children have medical issues or not. Of course having special needs of any kind increases the number and intensity of these moments.
And in these moments- as a parent of two kids with CF myself- when I am tempted to over-react, it helps me to remember the influence I have on my children and it causes me to pause. As my children see how I handle such moments, then they will learn to handle these moments for themselves. And when I handle it well, I will be giving my children gifts that will last a lifetime.
Lisa C. Greene is the mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, an author and public speaker. She wrote the award-winning book “Parenting Children with Health Issues” with Foster Cline, MD and published by Love and Logic. For more information, see www.ParentingChildrenWithHealthIssues.com.
For more Tips for CF Parents, visit Lisa’s website at www.TipsForCFParents.com.