Snipping the apron strings…bit by bit
….it’s got to be done so my advice would be to start early. When Heidi was very young we taught her how to queue (and discouraged kind people letting her jump the queue as that’s not going to happen as she gets older), how to find the toilets, how to ask for things from shop workers. We would allow her to try these things accompanied at first but we gradually stood back and let her do things.
If people asked one of us what she wanted, we just told Heidi to answer and stood further back. This is an ongoing problem but more and more people are realizing that she can speak for herself (even though she is the size of a 10 year old!)
This might be hard at first but remember the long game – independence. This will look different for all our children but gentle snipping of the strings will help them feel more independent and prepared to take on the world!
We always encouraged age-appropriate behaviour, clothes, bags and lunch boxes. If we want her to be treated “normally” then we don’t want her sticking out. I admit this is not easy when she wants trendy clothes and high heels – still hard when she is 26 and a size 3 shoe! (Especially when my sewing skills stretch to sewing on a button – thankfully Suzie’s are a lot better)
I was totally fed up of watching Disney films and was delighted to gradually allow Heidi to go to the cinema with Suzie, who still enjoyed them. The first time I watched another film at the same time, so they knew they could find me easily. The next time I sat in a nearby coffee shop and then eventually I let them go on the bus together to town. (I was very adept at hiding in bushes watching them cross the road and get on the bus). Suzie was paid for her kindness. Win all round!
I know that it’s hard to allow our youngsters their freedom and for lots it’s much harder than it was for me and Heidi, but there are solutions. You could use your young person’s DLA or PIP money to pay a friend to take them. Yes, it’s not independence but it’s preparing them for the days when you aren’t able to do it. The sibling or friend can teach correct behaviour on the bus and how to look out for shops or pubs that show you are nearly at the destination. Buying the tickets at the cinema might not be something your child could do (Heidi certainly couldn’t at first) but having watched Suzie she learnt what to do.
(And if you think you can’t afford it buy a CEA card and the carer gets in free!)We then moved on to the biggie – going shopping with Suzie and school friends. The easy option would be to say “no” and just take her myself, but shopping with Heidi is a tiring business so I was more than happy to pass the buck on this one. Though of course the first few times saw me follow at a distance and I was often seen hiding in doorways and having to explain myself to security guards or other customers.
Before the first trip Heidi and I went to a few of her favourite shops and cafes. I explained that she would soon be going shopping without an adult and if she had any problems could she come to them. Each one was delighted to help. She never used their services but remains good friends with those shopkeepers (with most of the shopkeepers and café owners in town actually.)
After a few times of following them around at a distance, I then said I would be in a particular café and they could find me if they needed me.
They never did, and things that I had worried about were sorted out by themselves or occasionally asking people for help.
Give it a try, you won’t know how well they can manage unless you give them the opportunity. Use friends/family to help so that they are not completely dependent on you; this will help them in the long run. I have heard lots of times “I never thought they could do it” or “they do so much more with other people than with me”.
All of these small but important steps prepare everyone for the day when we are no longer around.