Pop Idol judge, community leader and University of Bedfordshire honorary, Carrie Grant, discusses the highs and lows of juggling childcare in lockdown and tells Bedfordshire students who are parents: “You are building a future for your child and they see that determination.”
In an article on BBC Bitesize with her husband David Grant, Carrie discussed ‘Parenting children with additional needs in lockdown’.
When we spoke with Carrie about her article, she explained: “Lockdown has been amazing overall. The chance to be together as a family has been great. We have so many challenges with regards to neurodiversity but as a unit we are actually very happy and accepting of one another and in the context of our family everyone can be their fabulous super-selves without judgement.
“As lockdown has gone on for so long and we have been really strict, rarely going out, we have found the concept of re-integration back into the world trickier.
“There are mental health challenges, but we talk a lot and sit alongside each other with our thoughts. Some days are dark, but we take them hour by hour if we have to and eventually something shifts.”
As well as having a successful career in broadcasting, Carrie along with her husband David, regularly highlight the day-to-day struggles faced by families of children with additional needs. The couple, who have four children, all with additional needs, are autism community leaders and run community support groups from their home.
Carrie sits on the largest Transforming Care Partnership Panel in the UK for Learning Disability and Autism and has given keynote addresses at many health and education conferences in the UK, Europe and America.
She says a positive of lockdown has been the family being together “in a non-judgemental environment”, and a challenge has been “trying to meet the need when more than two people are in meltdown”.
With social media, comparing parenting styles is arguably easier to do, and much more apparent. Carrie explained: “I sometimes feel that parents of children who are different (in any way) live in a sub-culture. It can often be a voice-less, unheard void, a lonely walk.
“This is why we started our own support group, to give voice to one another, to hear one another, to champion one another. I have never met more dedicated parents than SEN parents. We are the shapeshifters, the micro- adjusters, those who somehow manage to juggle parent, carer, teacher, counsellor, negotiator.
“Often in our society all the success our children experience is credited to great parenting and all challenges we have are the parents’ fault. In reality children are their own people and we cannot always control the outcomes, particularly in regard to mental health.
“When parents parade their children, it can be tricky for those of us who have to read how successful a time everyone is having. I’ve always felt for the fatherless on Father’s Day, the love-less on Valentines Day and it’s important to remember not all people that want children get to have them and not all people who have children are having an easy time.”
Carrie and her family talk “non-stop” about mental health. “It’s spoken about as much as what people want for dinner,” she says. “We also do lots of listening, sometimes allowing people to find their own solutions is the best way to build confidence in their decision making and allows them to discover the strategies for themselves that work for them.”
And to Bedfordshire students who have childcaring responsibilities whilst studying for a qualification and who may be working at the same time, Carrie says: “You’re probably doing a great job of parenting. Nobody is perfect so go easy on yourself.
“If you are studying too you are building a future for your child and they see that determination. You are a living example of purpose. As long as we try to be present as much as we can, our children know we’ve got them. They are held, they are safe, they are loved.”
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