Growth through living our child’s difficulties together as a family.’ This is the approach taken by Natalija and Damijan Obadic from Slovenia, married for 14 years with four children. Their youngest, Lovro, now aged six, was diagnosed three years ago with Attention Deficit Disorder. He was offered drugs and the standard treatments as the only options. However his parents are experiencing the effective contribution which relationships can make to his care, enabling his treatment to be more effective. This approach sometimes throws up surprising solutions. But there is no quick-fix. Every day is a fresh challenge. The unity of the family members and their union with God is what sustains their daily efforts.
Natalija, how did you react to the news that your child suffers from Attention Deficiency?
I’m a teacher, so I immediately thought of the children I’ve worked with who had this disorder and the many problems they faced. Immediately, that same day, Damijan and I understood that the best way of loving Lovro in his condition was for one of us to leave our job. We had a mortgage to repay and only modest salaries, so it was going to be a sacrifice. But we knew that helping to meet Lovro’s needs would require a lot of love, time and energy. It was hard, and risky for our family situation, but at the same time we were sure that God’s love for us would sustain us.
What is this experience with Lovro teaching you?
We’ve learned how to listen to him very attentively. When you ask him to do something, you have to check if he has really understood what you’ve said, then follow him as he does it and keep directing him back to what he’s meant to be doing. If not, he will constantly revert to playing. For him to complete a task is equivalent to climbing a high mountain. It appears too steep to him, so he rebels and refuses to do it. Sometimes, it will lead to a crisis, with uncontrollable shouting, throwing things around, kicking and punching. In these moments, calmly and gently you need to find the way to redirect him to what he’s supposed to be doing. We’ve learnt that our love for one another gives us the capacity to help him, and that our love for Lovro guides us to understand what to do for him.
How do you deal with the difficulties of daily life?
We pray with him every day, asking for the strength for him to overcome his difficulties. He’s aware he has this disorder, so that is a big step towards dealing with it. We rely on the love among us to help us follow the specialist’s directives well. Most of all, we’ve understood that Lovro must feel our unconditional love for him at all times.
Your other children are involved in taking “special care” of Lovro. What is their relationship like?
We’ve spoken with our other children about Lovro’s needs, what we can expect from him and how to keep on helping him in the right way. Because it’s such an all-consuming commitment, we decided to take turns on different days of the week. We encourage the children not to “take pity” when they ask Lovro to complete a task, because they have to help him learn that he has duties which must be finished. They really are helping him. We began to see a difference after just three months. One evening we told him to put on his pyjamas and then come to sit down at the table. For the first time ever, he actually did so without getting distracted at all. That called for a real celebration!
Interview by Claudia Di Lorenzi