5 Business lessons learnt from parenting a child with Down syndrome

Darryl Steff, CEO - Down Syndrome Queensland

Business lessons can be learnt via many of life’s personal experiences and previous commercial dealings.  

 Interesting, extremely thought provoking, and moving circumstances can often throw us into turmoil, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Let’s face it, no-one wants to be faced with a challenge that can literally change the course of your life and how you perceive the world.  The reality of bringing into the world, and parenting, a child with Down syndrome was one such challenge which Michael, one of our team members from Down Syndrome Queensland, had to face.

Michael’s story of his years bringing up his son with Down syndrome offers powerful messages of what’s really important and how to take your business and personal life to the next level.

So, let’s take a look at 5 business lessons you can learn from a parent who ‘grew up’ with a child with Down syndrome.

Lesson 1:  Change happens

Having ‘been there, done that’ with a previous normal pregnancy and birth, the last thing Michael envisaged was to receive the news that with this pregnancy they were expecting a child with Down syndrome.   

Uncertainty caused Michael to retreat and bottle everything up.  He stopped communicating with his loved ones and didn’t release his emotions. This in turn impacted the family on many levels.

In business, poor communication can create a negative environment which can impact productivity, create frustration, resentment, insecurity, and impact team morale.

Whilst the birth of Michael’s son certainly changed how the family did things, they learnt to adapt quickly, and ultimately, the family adjusted. The underlying factor, that never wavered, was the love shared by, and for, all family members.

Events can happen which can change our environment but that doesn’t mean that the outcome has to be different.   Challenges arise but it’s how they’re managed that define the business and keep the sails set for success.

As we learn from Michael’s story, emotions are real and they should never be bottled up.  Emotions can be expressed by talking them out and yes, even crying them out.   This releases stress and opens up the doors for creativity and expansion, a must for any business or individuals within the business, going through significant change.

Lesson 2:   Family comes first

One of the most important lessons Michael learnt from parenting his son with Down syndrome, was that family comes first and every second counts when you’re with them.   

You might be the main breadwinner for your family but you don’t want your kids to only remember seeing the back of you as you’re heading out the door every day for work.

Take time out as a priority to pick the kids up from school and take them for a treat, take them to the movies, or plan and go on a camping trip together over a weekend.   

It’s also a good idea to make sure you spend one-on-one time with each child so you can delve into their ‘worlds’ and really get to know their thoughts and dreams.

As Michael reflects, the years go very fast and they’re only young for so long.  Close the laptop and enjoy some quality time with them while you can.

Lesson 3:   Look ahead, not sideways

Too much time is often wasted when we look at what our competitors are doing and yearn for who or what they have.

Michael shares a valuable insight into how anxious he would get when he compared his son with other children his age, even though his son wasn’t worried at all.   This lesson can be taken into the business arena.   

Whilst looking ‘over the fence’ can help to keep you informed of any new developments in eg garden fertiliser, comparing or yearning for that competitor’s success can be detrimental to your own operations and ultimate profits.

Keep your plans and systems in place for your business, and work hard to look ahead and stay on your own tracks, with optimism and enthusiasm for you and your business’ future.

Lesson 4:   Share the load

You might be the boss but that doesn’t mean you have to know every intricate detail about every area of your business or try and do it all yourself.

Michael learnt that asking for help, knowing where to find the answer and sharing the load with family members and friends, enabled him to spend more time with his son and carry less stress.

Often in business, figuring out and understanding what you need is the first step.  The next questions are ‘why do I need it?’, ‘who will do it?’, ‘how much will it cost?’, and ‘where will it take my business?’.

Strive to find the right people for the jobs that you can’t do well, eg if you’re struggling with it and spending a lot of time on your bookwork, look at engaging a bookkeeper.  You will be amazed at how much easier your life feels when you work smarter, not harder.

Lesson 5:  Be an Obstacle Overcomer

The old adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is certainly true, especially over the last two years with COVID 19.

Probably the most significant outcome for Michael is that through his journey, he became more resilient and confident that he could overcome any obstacle that confronted him.  This is comforting to anyone heading into an unknown and volatile future in business.

Obstacles enable you to focus on what matters, they direct your next steps, unleash your creativity and most importantly, reveal your true identity as a leader.   You don’t know your full capabilities until challenges, such as what Michael has experienced, arise.

Embrace obstacles head on with steadfast focus on your goals and mission and show the world how you can be an obstacle overcomer.   As each challenge comes along, and they will, tackling them will become easier and easier.

We extend our thanks to Michael for sharing his story and we invite you to read his full article here. If you would like to get involved to support our DSQ Community, you can discover how here:  How You Can Get Involved and Make a Difference

If you would like more information, contact Michael, Community Engagement and Fundraising Manager: email engagement@downsyndromeqld.org.au or 0422 676 179

Thank you for your support, we sincerely appreciate it.

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