Parenting teenagers demands different parenting skills and different parenting strategies compared to parenting babies and even school-age kids. We are a family of five led by two disabled parents. By the summer, I will have TWO teenagers! As I embarked on parenting, there were so many questions about how I would physically parent. How would I carry a car seat? How would I catch them when they ran off? Sometimes these questions were really judgments but from trusted people, we talked through our plans and learned from those who had already been in the trenches.
Advice from other disabled parents has been invaluable. I am still very much learning but here’s the advice I’ve been given and would offer to other disabled parents raising teens or tweens:
1) Equipment Matters. Our evenings and weekends are FULL of sports and activities. Gone are the days of them following my schedule. I don’t want to miss the action and my mobility equipment, including my Quantum Stretto, lets me keep up despite fluctuations in bone pain and stamina.My Stretto’s iLevel offers the added bonus of the freedom to hug my teens as they get taller.
2) Talk about Ableism. Our family talks openly about ableism or the idea that nondisabled people are the ideal. This can lead to some interesting dinner discussions because people with disabilities outnumber those without in our house 3:2 (unless you count our pets, which our youngest tries). It’s important to me that my children understand ableism is the problem and what we try to change through education and advocacy. Our disabilities themselves aren’t the problem.
3) Let your Strengths Shine: Teen years can be tough. Disabled parents can often relate to struggling to fit in or feeling like an outsider. My experiences have been a helpful way to relate to peer pressure and mental health struggles. Society almost never talks about disability as a strength but in parenting, it most certainly can be. Parenting teens is no easier than parenting babies. If anything, the stakes feel higher at times because, in just a few short years, they’ll be off to their next chapters of life. Parenting teens also brings its own unique rewards. I am grateful every single day I get a front-row seat to watch three amazing people grow.
Author: Kara Ayers