Article: Building your support network.
Patience and Planning
Families living with an individual with an FASD are having to build on stronger foundations using more and stronger supports than families parenting neurologically typical children. The process has been compared to building a house in a hurricane-prone area. As with any construction project, building a family that can withstand many of the storms that often accompany fetal alcohol spectrum disorders takes patience and planning.
Starting from the ground up – Working through your feelings
The first step in laying a solid foundation to build on is preparing the ground beneath it. For families living with FASD/ND-PAE this initial groundwork may involve:
- Working through feelings of anger, grief and loss issues concerning infertility, foster care, or adoption.
- Resolving issues between yourself and your child if it is your grandchild-you are now a parent again.
- Forgiving yourself, a spouse, or a birth parent.
- Talking with people who have had similar experiences to yours can be very helpful. If more assistance is needed a professional should be consulted. Maintaining the grounds that support the structure of the family will be a continuing effort, much like gardening and lawn work, but it will not always be as difficult as in the beginning.
The Foundation - Commitment and Understanding
- The foundation in a family living with an FASD is formed by a commitment to each other and understanding each other’s values and unique needs. It is important that everyone in the immediate and extended family learns about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and the impact it has on a family.
- For families with a member struggling with fetal alcohol-related issues, the challenges of daily life can seem overwhelming at times. Some days the goal may be to just get through it with everyone intact. On other days, family members find the strength to create and develop strategies that can make families flourish.
- Along with commitment, an understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is essential for a strong foundation. Families living with members who have other chronic diagnoses will talk openly about the challenges and explore the ways they can adapt for the good of all, as do strong families living with FASD/ND-PAE. Open communication about FASD can lead to these families being stronger and having more resiliencies.
Framing – Building on your strong foundation.
After the foundation is poured, the structure of a building is framed with the supports that will help it weather life’s storms. The same is true for families. The framing is made up of the strengths and contributions of individual family members, extended family, and supportive friends.
- The framing is further strengthened by supportive family members such as grandparents who assist in building the family up. Family members who have been educated about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders will be more supportive than those who do not understand the reasons for behavioral and learning differences.
- Share this Hand in Hand guidebook with family members or even invite them to an FASD workshop and conference. (Link to calendar)
Scaffolding – Surrounding your family with professional supports and resources.
Families living with a family member who has other chronic diseases will, at some point, likely need the help of many professionals including a diabetes educator, an endocrinologist, a nutritionist, a pharmacist, etc…to manage life with diabetes. It should be no different when the concern is an FASD.
- Not all professionals will understand the effects of alcohol on the developing fetal brain. Some professionals will have resources for your family some will not. This can be very frustrating for families. But remember that the professional resources you are putting together will act much like the scaffolding in a house that is under construction. This scaffolding may be put together piece by piece in a time-consuming fashion, but in the long run, your efforts will pay off.