I few years ago, received a call from my daughter’s school. “How did this happen?” the school psychologist wanted to know. My heart jumped. “What?” I questioned. She then informed me that my daughter (diagnosed with dyslexia, cognitive delay, emotional dysregulation and Asperger’s) had a huge jump in her IQ score and on her social-functioning scale. The week before they had informed me that my son had entered high school with a 76 percent average and was graduating with an 86 percent! They wanted to know how I was getting these results in our home.
As I reflected on these questions I was struck by how simple the answer was: prayer, family decisions to attack the social issues first, family time (including family dinner EVERY day) and feeding their dreams.
One component of this success was the way we functioned as a family. As a family, we prayed constantly and made novenas for our daughter. We made our decisions based on our instincts, led by God, and as a team. The first and most important decision we made for our daughter was to focus on her social and emotional needs. When she was diagnosed, our feeling was that a person with social skills could manage better in the world than a smart person with few social skills. We read books on improving her skills, and the whole family took on the project of teaching my youngest daughter how to manage socially in a world that didn’t make sense to her. Our reasoning was that if the outside clutter was diminished, her capacity to learn would increase. This turned out to be the correct call for her. I do not mean to suggest that this works for everyone, but this is what we felt the Lord was calling us to do for our daughter. I believe her success was a combination of an answer to prayer and our obedience to that answer. I also believe (as discussed in my book, Catholic Family Boot Camp) that our “team” approach to our children’s struggles was key in overcoming her struggles.
As we worked to help our children overcome their issues, we remained dedicated to family time. This definitely got more difficult as the kids grew, got part-time jobs, boyfriends or girlfriends, etc. However, we remained committed to this objective. We have family dinner every night, and whoever is able to be there is there. If one or more of the kids is working we try to work around their schedules or, at the very least, save some dinner for them. We also attend Mass and confession as a family, regularly. My husband and I even chaperone youth trips just so we can have as many of our seven children involved as possible and still be together as a family.
At our dinner table no subject is off limits. We discuss faith, politics, current events, and silly stuff. My answer to the school’s question would be not how did my daughter’s IQ increase, but how could it not?
Feed Their Dreams
Finally, my husband and I believe strongly in feeding our children’s dreams. This is a two-part plan. First, you must become a wonderful observer of your own children from an early age. Study them, watch them, and see what makes them tick. Parents can identify their children’s strengths and the things that interest them from a very young age. It is also important to ask your children what is important to them, especially as they enter the teen years. Their answers can surprise you.
Once we identified particular dreams or hopes, we began actively helping them pursue that. The old saying that what is important to you is where you will put your time and treasure becomes very accurate. One of our children loved photography, so we saved for a camera she would love. Another child loves BMX biking, so we worked to help him go to a BMX camp and then encouraged him to apply for a job there so he could go back for free.
When our children saw us helping them and supporting their dreams, it helped them to know how important they were to us and how much we believed in them. One of the most valuable gifts we can give another person is to see them and let them know their goals are important to you, too.
Copyright 2016 Mary Lou Rosien.
This excerpt from my book, The Joy-Filled Broken Heart (c) 2015/16, is reprinted here with permission.