Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. (http://goo.gl/cZWVI).
That creates a common situation where there is a neurotypical daughter, a sibling of an autistic brother. My own family is an example of this situation.
On many occasions I hear from parents who worry that the majority of their attention goes to a child with autism while their other child, the autism sibling, receives less attention than they might need. To be honest, sometimes this is a necessity. Often, sisters of a child with autism are phenomenal girls, compassionate, strong, capable and loving. But they still have a need to feel special, honored, loved uniquely for who they are.
That’s why I have asked Lynn Cowell to guest post today. Lynn has been ministering to teen girls for 10 years, and has recently authored a book written to teen girls, His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You. I asked Lynn if she would be willing to share some her insight about how a parent might honor their daughters, the siblings of another child with autism. Lynn responded in minutes. As she says, ministering to teen girls is her passion.
As a special giveaway, I am giving away a signed copy of Lynn’s amazing book. Just leave a comment to enter and I’ll announce the winner on Monday morning, September 12th.
And now for Lynn’s guest post:
Six Ways to Build a Bridge to Your Girl’s Heart
Boys … how are they typically described? Rambunctious, loud, messy, insensitive. Then there are our girls. So often they are compassionate, strong, capable, even at times the backbone and heartbeat of our families.
Unlike you, I do not have a child who has autism, but my first born son did come with his own unique packaging. This has put my two daughters in places where they have had to step up and mature faster than I would have desired. Yes, God has used this to make them strong. As their mom, though, I want to be aware of my girls needs. They need to be told they are beautiful. They need to be reminded consistently that they are loved. Like a plant in the hot Carolina summer sun, they need to be poured into on a daily basis so that they flourish and blossom.
This is no easy task, especially when we have another child who needs are much more apparent. Yet, friend, we cannot mistake the quiet stability of our girls as their lack of need. They need us to build a bridge to their heart; connecting our heart to theirs.
Here are six ways that you can build a bridge to your daughter’s heart:
Be informed about what is happening in your girl’s world. What things make her anxious? A friendship? You know many times relationships with girls can be more complicated than boys! For over ten years I have been mentoring, speaking and writing to teen girls. Girls carry a lot of anxiety. They need to know being needy isn’t bad; that’s where God comes in! Much anxiety can be alleviated by simply by talking. Know your girl’s heart. When you do this, you say to your girl, “I care enough about you to learn your world.”
Often what our girls need most from us is a safe place to talk. Recently, my daughter Madi was telling me about a friendship problem. I asked her, “Would you like me to just listen or do you want advice?” She said, “Just listen.”
An approachable parent responds instead of reacts. We should be thermostats instead of thermometers. Thermometers tell us the temperature of the house, a thermostat sets it. By responding instead of reacting we are setting the temperature of a safe place to be yourself and be heard.
Slowing down is important so we can be there for our children. Different kids will be more vulnerable and open at different times. Think over your life and your schedule. How can you arrange things so that you can be available to your daughter to hear about her world, her heart and the things she is going through in her mind?
Pouring into teen girls has been one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to me. These girls would say, “I wish I could talk to my mom like I can talk to you.” Or, “I wish my mom would tell me things about when she was growing up.” It is important to share with our girls the things we struggled with when we were their age. Of course, we need to do so as the Holy Spirit directs us and as it appropriate for their age, but our kids need to hear from us our struggles, our victories and our falls. When your child is struggling have you shared some of your stories with her? Does your child realize that you, too, struggle?
Be her discipler.
This is our chance to share with our girls what the Lord has done for us by going through His word with them. This can take place in two ways: informally and formally. Informally, I look for opportunities to tell my kids what Jesus is doing in my life. In the car, going for a walk or having a snack, I share how the Word helps solve problems.
Formally, when my kids are eating their breakfast, I read God’s Word to them. I also have a small group for my youngest daughter and five of her ninth grade friends. Every other week we get together to do a Bible study and learn more about Jesus and his love for them. By following a formal format, I am reassured that we will have a pre-set time to read and study His Word together.
Be willing to speak truth.
When your girl is looking in the mirror and lamenting over that zit on her forehead, remind her that Jesus says in Psalm 45:11: “The king is enthralled by your beauty.” When she feels rejected because everyone else has a boyfriend and she doesn’t, speak that truth “I am my lover’s and he is mine!” (Song of Solomon 2:16). When she wishes for a bigger chest and a smaller waist, speak to her, “You are altogether beautiful my darling and there is no blemish in you.” Your girl needs to know that the love she needs can never come from a guy – they just don’t have what it take; but Jesus has all she needs and then some!
You are the vessel, my friend, that the Lord can use pour the truth of unconditional love into your girl. Fill up and then pour out!
Lynn Cowell is a speaker and writer with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of 24 years and her three teenage children. She has just released of her first book “His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You”; a study for young women. She loves sushi, well worn sweatshirts and anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter. You can access free resources for you and your girl at www.LynnCowell.com.