Journey Through Holland

Most families with children who are challenging or have disabilities have heard that it’s more like going to “Holland” than Italy, and this is helpful.  But beyond that, what comes from our travels through this unexpected and often difficult experience, this Journey through Holland?

Oprah Magazine ran an article awhile ago suggesting that stressful life events, rather than being negative, may be gifts.  This is a ridiculous idea at first glance, I concede.  But when I look back on my own life, I see I learned more from the events I initially thought were the “bad stuff” then I did from the “good stuff.” (Although yes, good stuff is still wonderful and in the case of chocolate, easier to swallow).

To paraphrase the Oprah article and stimulate your own thinking:  “If what is happening to me right now is actually a gift for my benefit, what could that benefit be?”

Significant experiences in our life can teach us to be more generous and more fully human, whether we believe they come from Nature, a Higher Power, the Universe, or just Chance.  Lessons which might be learned from the experience of having a child with disabilities or challenges might include:

As the negative thoughts enter your mind, consider seeing things from a different perspective.  For example:

As my clients have helped and loved their children through their own Holland journey, I have watched this learning and personal growth occur in many of them, just as I experienced these in myself.  And as their children have grown and the path has become less rocky, parents have begun “giving back” to others who need help in – surprise! - ways only these parents are especially equipped to give. 

If you are reading this early in your Holland journey - at the survival stage – the idea of giving back will appear ridiculous…nonsensical…and permanently out of the question.  Never mind.  It may come later, or not…no pressure.

For now, try to live in the belief that you are on a difficult but life-changing Journey Through Holland.  A journey which may bring important insights, growth, and skills to you, whether your child makes dramatic improvements or none at all.  Looking back, you may realize that your life had a special richness and yes, even joy, not in spite of what you have been through, but because of it.


© 2009 – Deborah Skalabrin, MSW, LICSW - Year For Change Child Treatment and Therapy.  Permission is given to link to this document at

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Deborah Skalabrin, MSW, LICSW

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