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We have changed our name! Kids on the Spectrum is now called Living on the Spectrum

Parental Guidance or Parental Shaming?

Myself, like thousands of parents across Australia tuned into the channel 9 show Parental Guidance. Alison Langdon and Dr Justin Coulson are the show’s hosts. . We were hoping for practical parenting tips while also hearing about different parenting techniques. I had hoped for entertainment with a side of parenting advice. Then the confronting game show type scenario played out. Each couple judged each other’s parenting styles based on a series of challenges. The best family, according to a back row judging panel, then moved on to the next round. It was confronting, uncomfortable and left me squirming, a lot.

About Parental Guidance

I watched the first 2 episodes as we were introduced the parents participating in the show. Parenting styles including strict (Andrew and Miriam, NSW), nature (Liadhan and Richard, SA), attachment (Lara and Andrew, VIC), routine (Brett and Tony, VIC), French (Yann and Donna, NSW), Tiger (Kevin and Debbie, NSW), homeschooling (Deb, QLD), helicopter (Rachel and Sam, QLWhere was theD), free range (Penny and Daniel, NSW), and disciplined (Rob and Sioux, SA). Parents were given tasks that were filmed. The clips are shown back to everyone and a back row panel of parents then cast their judgements. Judging on the outcome and how their children responded with each task. Commenting on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Hello diversity.

What was missing was the disabled family, the family with an autistic child and the family with a child with additional needs. As special need parents we are aware of the judgements we encounter everyday. Accommodating our child’s needs is something parents are always conscious of. As parents we are being judged every day, it is our reality. Every day we balance the support of their mental health and protect them from the cruel outside world.

Reality check.

The teasing, the bullying, teaching them to adapt and learn that they will not always be accepted. We struggle to teach them resilience. Advocating with passion and maintaining our outward composure. All the while we sob for hours at the end of the day. Suffering from exhaustion and guilt while battling and fighting for others to understand and make accommodations for our child. With out realising we intuitively parent our special needs kids different to our neurotypical kids. We tell them that if they need screen time to regulate, then that is ok. Allowing them to eat chicken nuggets for the 3 meals a day, because at least they are eating. We teach others in our circle about them and teach them how to be in our child’s world. We try to encourage our child to be authentic and not to mask.


Will I continue to watch Parental Guidance?

I cannot be sure I can, it is difficult and I feel for all the families who are obviously doing their best. What I will be doing is learning and working out what is right for us, without feeling guilty. The thing that feels right for us. Being guided by what makes our family feel safe. I will do what will serve my family best and, if others do not like it, then that seems like a bit of a them problem. No one has the right to judge the journey of other parents.

 I acknowledge that there are fundamental things all families and children need. Family time, connection, making a child feel safe and loved and of course protection from physical harm.  I encourage learning and trialling what works for you, because information is power. But to give permission for other parents to judge the way I interact with my child or even the way my kids act in public, is not OK.  That child who you judge as “naughty” or “disrespectful” may be in sensory overload. That child who will not look at you when you are talking to them is autistic or has ADHD. They cannot comprehend what you are saying if they maintain eye contact. These scenarios are not because I am a bad parent, it is because I am a great parent and allow my child to just be authentic to who they are.

I am still l not sure if I will be watching any more and I would be keen to hear your thoughts of this show. Am I overreacting, am I taking it too seriously?

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