The disabilities, conditions, and disorders of children with special needs can be both overwhelming and downright confusing. They create a vortex of emotions that sweep over the parents, siblings, and entire family.
Whether your child has a sensory, behavioral, physical, emotional, or developmental disability, parenting a child with special needs can be intense, and sometimes exhausting.
A little over 9 million children under the age of 18 in the US are special needs children.
Anyone of their parents can affirm that raising these children is a challenge. As a parent, when you learn that your child has special needs, you start a journey that takes you through an emotional roller coaster, interaction with many specialists, and facing difficult choices.
You get an ongoing need for services and information, and with all these, it can be isolating and lonely, to say the least.
If you just learned that your child has special needs, it must have been a blow for you.
However, we’ll help you learn to cope and understand how parenting a child with special needs can be easier:
1. Accept the Diagnosis and Don’t Blame Yourself
It’s quite common for parents to blame themselves and feel like the disability, disorder, or condition is their fault.
You will possibly feel the need to grieve the loss of an opportunity to raise the “perfect baby,” and you may be feeling ill-prepared to cope with the news.
However, if you feel a sense of guilt, you need to understand that it’s not your fault.
A lot of parents get into depression and resentment towards other people with normal children. More so when they feel like everyone blames them for their child’s condition.
Or when they feel misunderstood, which often leads to avoiding interaction, and finally, isolation.
You see, your child’s treatment can only start when you accept the condition. Some disabilities and disorders can be life-long, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will not experience a good life.
It may not be what’s considered to be a regular normal life, but it can be just as amazing, and your child needs you for that to happen.
Accepting will make things easier because you’ll place your focus on what to do next and take actions that make the situation a lot better.
2. Seek Help and Learn As Much as You Can About Your Child’s Needs
It’s vital for you to seek information and help as early as possible.
Apart from bearing the emotional burden, if you keep it to yourself, you may escalate an otherwise manageable situation.
Talk to professionals and specialists about the condition and learn as much as you can by reading books and online resources about it.
You’ll also find a network of parents that share their experiences and success stories with relevant support groups and organizations.
You will feel more in control when you know what you’re facing and how to handle whatever comes your way.
3. Create a Routine and Stay Organized
Parenting a child with special needs requires a routine and organization. Having consistent meal times and bedtimes can benefit your child’s social, emotional health.
A lot of special needs children struggle with emotional expression and socialization, which makes a home routine imperative for them.
The thing is, routines eliminate the confusion and fear that comes with not knowing what’s going to happen. Beyond that, basic things like getting a haircut or visiting the dentist may not be easy.
It would help if you would organize all the specialists and professionals that can handle your child’s needs.
Make appointments in advance so you’ll have enough time to prepare the child both emotionally and mentally for the trip and treatment.
4. Recognize Your Child as an Individual
Learning to accept your child for who they are can be one of the most liberating steps when parenting a child with special needs.
It’s okay to give them your unconditional love and undivided attention. But understand that they are their own person, and will have their own goals and dreams.
Learn to recognize their qualities instead of focusing on what they don’t have and treat them like the child they are.
As your child grows up, you need to stop measuring your parenting success by how much you do for them. Start measuring it by how much you allow and teach them to do for themselves.
While, as a parent, you feel the need to make life easier for them, it’s alright to teach them how to be independent.
You need to prepare them for life, and it’ll be easier for them to grow and develop into the person they are. This means they may require them to be out of their comfort zone sometimes.
Learn how to teach social skills as well so that your child will have an easier time interacting with others.
5. Avoid Stressing About What Others Think
It’s understandable that you can’t help worrying about what people think, especially when so many of them can be quite insensitive. They may not understand things from your perspective and may not be able to relate to your challenges.
Still, try as hard as you can to avoid obsessing over what they think.
6. Take Care of Yourself
When parenting a child with special needs, it’s quite easy to neglect yourself and place all your attention on them.
However, you’ll be in better shape to take care of them if you are at your optimum. This means you need to take care of yourself as well and continue with good rest, exercise, eating well, and continuing with your hobbies.
It may seem like you barely have time to do any of these things, especially if you have a job, a spouse, and other children.
However, you need to get a breather so you can release some of your tension, anxiety, and stress.
7. Join Support Groups
Special needs parents need to understand that they can’t do this alone. Parenting a child with special needs is not easy, and having support can go a long way.
Start with involving your family members by forming a strong partnership with your spouse, and involving the siblings as well.
Beyond that, you should join support groups so you can meet and interact with other parents raising children with special needs.
Learning from them will be empowering, and when you see success stories, it’ll give you hope and a new zeal for life.
Parenting a Child With Special Needs: Taking One Step At a Time
Parenting a child with special needs is undoubtedly challenging because they require more of your energy, time, and dedication.
Still, nurturing relationships with the other family members will contribute to calmer and happier family life.
Foster acceptance, love, and positivity so that every member of your household will be flexible and compassionate.
Own your family, and don’t feel the need to be sorry.