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Ask Rene: How Can I Get My Relatives To Understand?


Ask Rene:
How Can I Get My Relatives To Understand?

Hi Rene,

I have a 9-year-old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Under the umbrella of Asperger’s he also has ADHD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have been a teacher of Early Childhood Education for over 25 years. Labeling children is my forte, yet it took a while to figure my son out.

It was a relief when the diagnosis was made. He has been working hard in therapy on how to handle his anger and social skills. However, my relatives do not understand him and expect him to be like other kids. Whenever there is a family get together, the relatives feel it is their place to reprimand him and usurp my authority. I do not want to cause a scene, however if I ever said anything to their 6-year-old the way they talk to my son, all you know what would break loose.

My son asks me why his grandma, uncle and aunt don’t like him. They tell me I need to “get a handle” on him now or else I will be sorry.

What should I do next time something like this comes up? I am not making excuses for him or his behavior. I have learned through Parent Communication Therapy how to deal with discipline with a child like my son. It is so frustrating I don’t want to go to family get togethers anymore. Thanks for any advice!


Tying a Knot and Hanging On



Dear TKHO:

I think the most heartbreaking part of your letter is that your son believes the people who are supposed to love him, don’t like him because of things that he cannot change or control. So here’s what I would do if I were you.

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Creative Commons/irina slutsky

So many of life’s misunderstandings are borne of ignorance; people just don’t know any better. You have a window to change that now. Find as much information as you can on ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and the other things that your son is dealing with. Print them, put them all together in a binder and then give them to your extended family. Make sure they know they can come to you with any questions. After you have given them the information, you can follow up to see if they’ve read it; but better yet, if a situation arises, they’ll know how to handle it because they’ll have the resources at their fingertips.

Read more:  On Aisle 9: The Danger Of Assumptions


Creative Commons/CupcakeCandy

Once they know better, they need to DO better. In other words, once they know there will be no more excuses for their behavior. So when your son doesn’t sit and play quietly with his cousins or has a hard time with authority, point back to the binder. Also use it when they start in about you “need to get a handle on” your son.

You also need to make it very clear that you are the one to reprimand him, unless he, or someone he’s playing with, is in danger. The binder will help you draw the line in the sand; once they cross it, you have to decide what you’re going to do. You can only warn so many times before taking action. If I were you, taking action means spending less time with the relatives.

Read more:  The GEM Debate: Rule Breaking: When Should Kids Do It?


Creative Commons/thedecoratedcookie

This is a conversation that needs to happen early and often. Your son needs to know it is the limitations of your relatives not his behavior that is the problem. You can explain in a way he will understand (less detail in the beginning and more as time goes on, if you wish), why this is going on. “It’s not that Grandma and Grandpa don’t like you; they just don’t understand.” Then explain that you are trying to help them get it. But (and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this) I don’t think you can say “I love you the way you are” enough to your boy. I can only imagine how tough this must be for him knowing that he’s trying and he’s still not good enough for them, anyway.

Read more:  Tandem Tantrums: Weathering The Storm: Be Afraid, But Be Assured


You are at a critical place right now but the bottom line is either they (the relatives) get on board or you get going. Your son needs you to protect him.. even if that’s from those who are supposed to love him.

Good luck!

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More form GEM:

On Aisle 9: The Danger Of Assumptions

Raisin’ In Minnesota: The Color Of Discipline

10 From GEM: 10 Tips To Keep Your Kids Off The Summer Slide

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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