‘Then there is hope, worry and guilt. These states of mind will surely be familiar to parents of all children and to practitioners and managers’
Extract from 'Bringing up babies and young children who have very special needs':
“There are many negative mental states practitioners can suffer in common with parents and other family members. Examples are denial, hope, worry and guilt. We are all subject to these mental states from time to time. When they become problematic, there can be help from family, friends, managers, psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritual leaders and others. I am writing here from my direct experience as a teacher and family keyworker, not as a professional trained in these subjects.
“It is quite common for an insensitive practitioner to describe a parent they know as being in denial. Blame is attached. There can be a subtext, ‘It is about time they pulled themselves together’. In my experience, denial is a common coping mechanism for all of us. When a new baby has a disabling condition, one parent might accept the news while a partner at first refuses to listen to the evidence. A grandparent might deny the situation and say to one of the parents, ‘You were just like that as a baby, but you grew out of it’. Being in denial can be a coping mechanism to help us get through a bad time. It is a short-term strategy.
“A parent or practitioner who stays in denial for a long time might need help. A parent who, in denial of their young child’s disability, persists in refusing to use a wheelchair or another piece of equipment that would benefit the child is doing a disservice to the child. Any observation by a practitioner that a parent is stuck in denial must be followed by an offer of professional help to the parent. This is more constructive than criticism and blame. A practitioner whose habitual behaviour pattern with parents is to be brusque and insensitive might be trying to avoid acknowledging children’s pain or parents’ distress. This practitioner is not coping and needs support. It can be that some practitioners will want to maintain their narrow discipline-specific focus on a child’s condition rather than face the implications of the whole multifaceted condition. Denial is common in both practitioners and family members.
“Then there is hope, worry and guilt. These states of mind will surely be familiar to parents of all children and to practitioners and managers. They seem to come as part of the human condition but can become stronger in people around children who have very special needs....”
From Bringing up babies and young children who have very special needs
By Peter Limbrick, 2019