Grow Your Advocacy Chops!
New Year Resolutions for the Busy Parent-Caregiver:
Grow Your Advocacy Chops!
A sentiment often shared by parents of children with disabilities is their wish to get more involved in advocacy efforts. It is obvious they possess unique experiences and an understanding of social and political issues that impact their kids and their families. Parents and caregivers have important stories to share and wonderful ideas to improve policies to better serve their kids and communities.
It is abundantly clear that parents of kids with disabilities are ready to step up as community change-makers. They possess the knowledge, the experience, the skills, the passion and the pragmatism.
What they do not often possess is time.
Parents are busy. All parents are busy. It is often part of the gig of becoming a parent.
But, parents of kids with disabilities are off-the-charts busy. We all know this.
Parents of kids with disabilities do all the regular parenting stuff…
And then, second-shift parenting begins, during which parents transform into a caregiver, a nurse, a teacher, a therapist, a pharmacist, a personal assistant, and more…
And all of this is in addition to whatever type of outside employment parents may hold, and whatever parenting or caregiving is required for their other children or family members.
THE RESULT: Many parents of kids with disabilities want to get involved in advocacy, but they do not see how that can be done.
THE ANSWER: Incrementally.
Small steps, my friends.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when considering how to become involved in advocacy. There are so many policies that need attention. There are so many issues that need dedicated champions to push for change. That is obvious. However, it is impossible for one person to advocate, with any degree of commitment, on *all* the issues. And, that, too, is okay.
Your involvement in advocacy, at any level, on whatever issue, or issues, are most important to you, is absolutely worth it. Your presence makes change happen.
So, for those parents and caregivers who want to step up their advocacy game in 2022, here is a RESOLUTION for you:
Commit to 20 minutes of dedicated advocacy once per week.
Put it on your calendar and treat it as an appointment that you must keep.
That is it. Start there — with that first incremental step — and see where your year takes you….
Use that 20 minutes to read — without distraction — books and articles about what it means to be an advocate, or how to engage in the advocacy process.
Use that 20 minutes to write — without distraction — about your personal advocacy goals. Advocacy can occur at all levels of government. Do you want to advocate for increased accessibility at local playgrounds? Do you want to advocate in the local school district for increased inclusion of kids with disabilities in general education? Is there a state law that really needs to change? Is there a national advocacy group that you dream of joining? Whatever it is, write those goals down on paper, and tape that piece of paper to your bathroom mirror. Look at it every morning when you are brushing your teeth. Think about those goals in the shower. Keep thinking about them.
Use that 20 minutes each week to study issues that are important to you.
Use that 20 minutes to reach out to other family caregivers who are also working on those same issues.
Use that 20 minutes to learn about your state legislative district and those who serve your community. Then, send them an email sharing the story of your family and the issues that are important to you.
Each week, take your next incremental step forward into advocacy during that 20-minute appointment with yourself.
Change occurs over time. Change happens slowly — often, more slowly than we would like. But, change happens when people get involved. And, even 20 minutes of your time can be part of driving that change.
And who knows? Maybe your 20 minutes will incrementally turn into 30 minutes, and then an hour each week…
And then, soon, you will look back and realize just how much change was brought about by that first 20-minute, incremental step.
There is no better time than the present to take a first step.
Whitney Stohr is a Parent to Parent Coordinator at The Arc of Snohomish County. She is passionate about advocating for medically complex children and children with disabilities and their families. She is a mom and medical caregiver herself, who is energized by working closely with other parent/family caregivers. She lives with her three-year-old son Malachi and husband Jason in Lynnwood. Connect with her on Instagram @rollin.w.spinabifida. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.