Parenting a Twice-Exceptional child will change your life. Homeschool mom and Twice-Exceptional advocate Sallie Borrink shares the ways in which parenting a 2E can challenge, stretch, and shape you into the mother you were meant to become.
Every expectant mother knows life will change with the arrival of her baby. This is especially true if your child is twice-exceptional (2e), the term given to children who are both gifted and have at least one learning difference such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, autism, etc.
But the baby books don’t tell you about parenting a twice-exceptional child. Neither do parenting books or classes. Parenting a 2e child isn’t on the typical parent’s radar at all. But discovering that your child is wired differently takes parenting on a completely different trajectory. Understanding what those unique individual needs are and how they all interact is life-changing not just for the child but for the parent as well.
2e Parenting Changes You
Parenting a 2e child will make you realize how much you don’t know. It can be tremendously humbling. It will become apparent that many of the preconceived notions and assumptions you had about parenting and children simply do not fit with your situation. You’ll be ignoring conventional wisdom and going against the tide. People won’t understand your choices either. Your 2e child will need you to be a strong advocate and this can be a significant change in life approach for many people.
Parenting a 2e child means you will change. I don’t think it’s possible to parent a child who is wired differently and not change in some significant ways. Many of those changes will be for the better. I think parenting a 2e child can make you more compassionate not just toward your own child, but toward other children and parents. After parenting a 2e child for a while, you learn to look beyond the basics of a situation and try to understand what is driving it. You look more deeply, you feel more deeply, and you love more deeply.
2e Parenting Changes Your Priorities
When you realize your child is wired differently and it’s up to you to figure it out on her behalf, it changes your priorities. You are no longer focusing on typical milestones, but your child’s unique path of learning and growing. You will be forced to re-evaluate your priorities based on the needs of your child.
What makes a 2e diagnosis especially challenging is that there is a nearly unlimited number of ways a child can be 2e depending on how she is gifted and her particular learning difficulties.
It takes time to research your child’s needs, find answers, and implement them. Therapies and doctor appointments take time. I’ve sometimes said that parenting a 2e child is like an additional part-time job. Depending on the unique blend of gifts and weaknesses, it can take you years to sort it all out.
Many 2e parents discover that the goals and dreams they had expected to pick up again after their children were in school are now unrealistic dreams. Your child takes too much of your time and energy. Your priorities were unknowingly changed for you with the birth of this child.
2e Parenting Changes Your Marriage
Parenting a child with significant health needs impacts a marriage. The same is true with parenting a 2e child. Like most life stressors, it can either draw a couple together or drive a wedge between them.
Twice-exceptional children can be exhausting, especially when they are younger. So in addition to the already demanding season of life with small children, you are adding in the demands of 2e. Stress and exhaustion can put a strain on even the best of marriages.
It’s important for a couple to work together in their parenting, including finding solutions that they agree on together. Choices about schooling, discipline, etc. can be complicated with a 2e child and parents have to discuss those choices and come to an agreement together.
Parents of 2e children also need to make sure they are getting time away from parenting responsibilities. It can be especially challenging to get a break from your child, but it is necessary. Even if there is no opportunity to get away physically due to needs or financial strain, continue to make communication about the value of your marriage and your friendship a top priority as often as possible.
2e Parenting Changes Your Outside Relationships
Having a 2e child usually means significant changes in your relationships with other people. Whether it is friends or family members, it becomes apparent rather quickly who is going to be supportive of your hard work to meet your child’s unique needs and who is not.
Parenting a 2e child takes a lot of time. Time that you previously spent investing in friendships will now be spent meeting your child’s needs. That’s not to say that you should abandon your friendships and outside interests. All parents need aspects of their life that is uniquely theirs. But the time and energy you have to devote to them may be much, much less.
If you end up homeschooling, your entire life will change and this especially includes where you invest your friendship time. Oftentimes the friendships you need the most are with other homeschooling parents and other parents of 2e children because they understand your world. Your life will probably not look anything like the lives of your friends with neurotypical kids and that’s okay. But it’s important to realize these differences may impact your relationships in ways you could never have foreseen when you were pregnant.
2e Parenting is Life-Changing
Parenting a 2e child is life-changing, but it can be a good thing! Embrace your 2e parenting journey. Adjust your expectations. Love your 2e child unconditionally. She’s not a problem to be solved, but a wonderful individual. Make your journey the best it can be for all of you.
Sallie Borrink is a homeschooling mom, author, and blogger from Michigan. She writes about 2E parenting, homeschooling, and cozy living on her website, SallieBorrink.com.
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