How Our Parenting Style Evolved After the Parkinson’s Diagnosis

As 3 kids grew and changed, so did our approaches to caring for them

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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When our first daughter, Alexa (whom we call Lexy), was born in 1996, we were in our mid-20s. My husband, Arman, and I were obsessive first-time parents, documenting in detail her feedings, diaper contents, and sleep (or lack thereof) schedule. All visitors were required to scrub their hands before entering our home, and this was long before that was an acceptable practice.

Some family members joked about how strict and disciplined we were about nap time and bedtime. We were young and inexperienced parents and wanted to do everything “right.” We were methodical and rigid in our parenting style and continued this philosophy with our second daughter, Amanda (known as Mandy), and our third child, Jacob (called Jake). Our children always had an early bedtime, and we were strict about schedules, activities, and amount of TV time.

The kids were still very young when Arman was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD). Jake was only 6, so he remembers little about his life before PD. Mandy was 9 and sensitive to Arman and what he was dealing with. At 13, Lexy had difficulty coping with the diagnosis and understanding how it’d affect our family.

Three children at very different stages of development presented us with three unique situations to handle amid the chaos of dealing with our own pain.

We wondered how the Parkinson’s disease diagnosis would alter our parenting style. Would we continue to have the same mindset even though our entire world had been turned upside down? Would we even be able to maintain the same level of structure since we were now dealing with the unpredictable?

We immediately decided we didn’t want to treat our kids any differently because of this diagnosis. The worst thing we could’ve done would’ve been to spoil them to make up for our circumstances.

We’d also use our situation with rare disease to teach them about adversity, empathy, kindness, strength, and love. These lessons became an intangible and unpredictable blessing. While we’d likely have worked to teach our children similar values without PD, leading them by example felt both natural and authentic.

As a result, they began to look at life differently and always stepped up to help the underdog. All three kids started volunteering when they were old enough, and giving back to our community became essential to their lives.

How did our parenting style evolve after Parkinson’s disease? Just as happens with PD, things didn’t go exactly as we’d planned. The nature of the diagnosis forced us to loosen the reins and go with the flow more. We realized our kids would make mistakes and learn from them, good or bad. We began to trust them to make their own decisions and lead their lives their way, not our way.

This was particularly difficult for me, as I was used to managing most situations my way. But I followed their lead and gave them the space to control their own destinies. Our primary goal in parenting remained the same: to provide our kids with the tools they needed to become independent, mature, and responsible adults.

Our babies are all grown up at 26, 22, and 19. The kids are all three best friends and count on each other for everything. If you’re lucky enough to stop by our house when they’re at home, you’ll hear the sounds of laughter and loud music. You’ll feel their love for one another and us in the air. You’ll smell the delicious scents of Jake baking desserts and the girls cooking us dinner.

Despite PD and our obsessive years of parenting, we raised three exceptional children. I’m glad we parented our way and never let the criticism change us. All jokes aside, maybe we did something right in our parenting after all.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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