When our children are newly diagnosed with hearing loss or deafness, implanted with cochlear implants or given hearing aids, we never think anything could ever be more challenging. Teaching a child to hear and talk is a miraculous challenge filled with the greatest highs and some difficult lows.
Then, they are 'mainstreamed'. We think we are done. Check it off the list. Nope, third and fourth grade hit and then the realization that school can be difficult again. More complex classes and language. You put more energy into homework and probably some tutoring.
Now, teen and tween years are here. What's more challenging than hormonal teens? Easy ... hormonal teens with hearing loss. Mental fatigue and raging hormones can knock a momma flat on her back.
So here it is... the greatest challenge of them all. Watching your hearing impaired child navigate friendships and independence. One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you is this.... LET THEM LIVE IT.
I've watched Lexi navigate some social things since the 2nd grade. I'll never forget getting a call that there were some "issues" with her in the classroom. A lot of concern was placed on her reaction to some girls. Remember, Lexi is a tall, strong girl. She seems intimidating, but she's really a big ole teddy bear when it comes to friendships. And then we found out some truths...there was a girl or two taunting her. Covering their mouths and whispering about her, knowing she can't hear or understand them. trying to get her to react. They even said she was "staring" at them in a mean way.
Well, once Lex burst into tears and trembled, it all came out. She had been trying to see, understand what they were saying about her. So the squinting and confused look on her face was related to a child who cannot hear well enough to defend herself.
That was the day my mommy alert was up. That was also the day I decided to allow Lexi to advocate for herself. I knew I had to give her tips and advice on how to deal with mean people throughout her life. I knew her good friends wouldn't always understand her, so helping her talk to them and coach them a little would help her in the long run. But I also realized it is important for me to make sure she is her own advocate.
Lately, tween Lexi has some things she chats about from time to time. We have entered the world of social groups and when girls kind of go hang with who they feel most connected to, it's not easy to see or watch sometimes. We naturally think that they are left out of something due to their hearing loss. But remember, this is life with or without hearing loss. Kids are funny. They are different. They are fickle.
My greatest advice is to teach them to ADVOCATE for themselves. To LOVE others even when love isn't being given. To respond in LOVE. To walk away when it's uncomfortable and to COUNSEL with you, their parents. Listen, love and let go. These lessons are invaluable for when they are off to college, in a marriage or navigating relationships at work one day!
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