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On Their Own: Sage Advice for Parents

In a poignant passage from her book, mother and heiress Ann Ford reflects on the lifelong realities of raising a child with learning disabilities.

By Anne Ford , John-Richard Thompson

In her new book, On Their Own, Anne Ford shares with parents her hard-earned wisdom about the demands and rewards of raising a child with learning disabilities.  Based on her own experiences and conversations with hundreds of parents across the country, Ms. Ford realized that parents were often overwhelmed with worry about their children.  In On Their Own, she urges parents to reflect on ways to sustain themselves for the long haul - by seeking help and moral support, by not expecting miracles of oneself or others, and by keeping a sense of humor when the going gets tough.

In this excerpt from On Their Own, Ms. Ford offers parents words of comfort and common sense for coping with worries about their children.

Lessons Learned - a Checklist of Realities

Isn't it awful, reading a book to gain a measure of hope about your situation, only to be told that you have to be the one to apologize and that the main responsibility for developing a better relationship with your adult child falls upon you? It is awful, yes, but parents of LD children and adults have dealt with truths far more difficult than these. Here is a checklist of realities I have struggled to learn and accept:

I'm not alone, even though I think I am

This is an old standby left over from the earliest beginnings of my journey with Allegra and learning disabilities. I'm not sure why, but for some reason parents of LD children and adults all too easily believe they are the only ones going through something like this, that no one understands, and they are destined to go through it all alone. Even when such thinking is proven false, the idea lingers on and pops up at unexpected times. This can be especially difficult for single parents who have no one to take over once in a while or to bounce ideas off of or to help share in the frustrations.

The reality is that we are alone sometimes - even in two-parent households. Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of other parents undergoing similar trials, but right then, in the moment after you've hung up the phone after a heated argument or just learned of yet another unexpected difficulty, no amount of imagined camaraderie helps ease the situation. When I'm in the middle of trying to figure out how to handle something, it simply doesn't matter how many others are going through something like it. They're not with me then!

Once the situation settles and the smoke clears, it's true: the knowledge that others are experiencing similar challenges really does make you feel part of something larger than your own narrow experience. There's a sense of belonging to a club - maybe not one you wanted to join, but one that truly does give a measure of comfort.

If this sense of belonging and comfort has completely eluded you, or if you feel isolated and lost, you do have options. Parent support groups and LD organizations such as Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA) are filled with parents who feel exactly as you do now. (You'll find a list of these organizations in the Resource Guide.)

I don't know what I'm doing or if I'm doing the right thing

This is a feeling that hovers in the background all the time. Well, guess what? No one is perfect. You're not. I'm not. No one is, and not every decision we make will be the best one, or even all that good. The reality is that no one else in your situation could do a better job than you are doing right now.

Newmarket Press was founded in 1981 and has published more than 300 books, including the bestselling What's Happening to My Body? One of the few mainstream trade publishers in New York City that is independently owned, Newmarket Press puts out 20 to 30 books per year in areas such as childcare and parenting and personal finance.