Thursday, August 02, 2007

Helping Your Child Build Relationships at Church

I have been talking about relationships between church members and children or adults who experience special needs. I know that it sounds easier than it is. To parents who have been hurt by Christians who don’t understand it seems impossible.

The bonding doesn’t take place immediately and it takes work on a parent’s part but a thing of beauty develops from that effort. Through the magic of video I can show you the joy that Billy Ray and his friends at church experience. After you watch it I will have some pointers on how to establish those relationships.

Many parents write that they are not welcome in service with their child. Sometimes the whole family stops attending and other times one parent attends the first service alone and the other parent the next service alone. The separation and isolation from the church family is painful. We have been there.

The answer may be in prospective. We understand that our kids can’t always control talking out in whatever setting. For the most part young children who do not experience special needs would be taken to the nursery if they can’t remain quiet during service. For many of our children with special needs to do that could cause a meltdown which may be more disruptive to the service than the occasional noise or talking out. This may not be obvious to everyone.

An amazing amount of acceptance and tolerance happens when your child establishes relationships. I think the video from friendship and worship time at Grace Fellowship demonstrates that.

I started years ago, just introducing Billy Ray to folks in our prior church. I taught him to shake hands and say hello. Sometimes he would want to hug. Until we knew folks enough to be sure that was okay I was very cautious about having him ask or I ask. Little by little I would add little insights into Billy Ray relative to noise or who he is as a person.

Now that he is very attached to folks, I have learned where I can just set him free to interact independently with folks and when I should supervise closely. You will note that when he was greeting an elderly man I stayed very close because even though I have warned him that he must be gentle with Lewis, he sometimes is too rough for him. On the other hand, I know that he can do his “running hug” with John or Max so I back off a bit.

I can often tell who he wants to greet by who he is looking at and can’t figure out how to get to. For example, I saw him staring at Max and there were people blocking him from getting to Max. I confirmed where he wanted to go and then helped him wade through the crowd.

Many people have told me how much getting to know him has touched them. Children and adults with disabilities change us in a way no one expects.

Until next time,
Peggy Lou Morgan
Blogs: Amazon Author Connect, Parenting a Complex Special Needs Child and Parenting a Complex Special Needs Adult
Websites: Parenting Your Complex Child, Lighthouse Parents, Peggy Lou
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