Anger, fear, grief, intense emotions, denial, guilt, bitterness, medical jargon, and difficult decisions are some of the things you have to contend with as a parent when you learn you have a child with special needs. Initially when parenting a child with special needs, you may feel alone and isolated, not knowing where to start, who to go to for support, information, assistance, or even a little understanding.
In the US alone, 17% of children aged between 3 and 17 years have a developmental disability and require special care.
If you have a child with special needs in your family, we have put together this comprehensive guide for you. We’ll share with you information on how to care for your special needs child.
Find a Parent-to-Parent Program
One of the most consoling things about caring for a special needs child is having people you can relate to and people that can relate to you. More often than not, you find that people who have not undergone such situations or raised children that require special needs do not fully understand you.
Check the Parent to Parent USA website or the Federation for Children with Special Needs where you’ll find listings for parent groups. Find one in your local area if possible so you can have support close by.
Communicate With Your Family
When most families discover they have a child or children with special needs, they don’t communicate. Some may shift blame towards each other and think that the other did something wrong for it to happen. The more you communicate, the more you can draw strength from each other.
Parents react to situations differently, and you may feel like you’re not getting as much as you’d like from your spouse.
Instead of interpreting it as them not caring, talk to them. The situation may be affecting them differently than you. It’s understandable that you feel tempted to close up your emotions and keep to yourself, but talking to your close friend or family member is beneficial as they may help you carry your emotional burden.
If you have other children, you should not forget that they also need you and need to understand what’s going on. If you find that the child with special needs is taking up too much of your time and leaving you drained, find a significant person in the family who can establish a communicative bond with the other children.
Seek a positive source, such as a friend, family member, priest, or counselor, that you can talk to and rely on in times of need. Pain divided is not nearly as hard as pain in isolation. If you feel that professional counseling would be better, then don’t hesitate, as a professional counselor may have just the training needed to help you cope with the specifics of your situation.
Seek as Much Information as Possible
It’s important to understand as much as you can about your child’s needs and what you can and must do for them. It’s vital that you seek accurate information from reliable sources. Never be afraid to ask any question you have because this is your avenue to getting information.
A good way to do this is by writing down a question every time it comes to mind so that when you get to the specialist, you won’t forget what you wanted to understand. Record and file this information for future reference. Ask to get copies of diagnostic reposts, progress reports, and evaluations.
Don’t feel inadequate around medical practitioners and educational professionals, and don’t let them intimidate you. Talk to special education attorneys to understand what your child’s rights are when it comes to education. As long as they are involved in the well-being of your child, you should not be sorry for wanting to know what’s happening.
Learn to Cope With Natural Feelings
Learning your child has a disability can be a shock; it often means the course of your life is changed forever in a way few expect. It’s natural for you to feel disappointed, guilty, bitter, and angry. However, the sooner you understand that you can’t change the situation and can only deal with it, the sooner you’ll start looking at things in a positive light.
You may have to revise all the dreams you had for your child, but it’s important for you to acknowledge your anger and work through all those negative feelings. When anger is no longer draining your energy, you’ll be in a better position to deal with any challenge thrown your way.
Just remember your child didn’t choose the circumstances any more than you did. They still deserve love and respect.
Know How to Deal With Others
When parenting a child with special needs, you’re bound to feel sad or angered by the way people regard and react to your child. This is one of the hardest things you may have to deal with.
Understand that people don’t know how to react when they encounter such children, and even though it’s rude to gawk at you or even discriminate against you, you may still encounter them. Consider how you want to respond to them to avoid getting frustrated each time.
Take Care of Yourself
Most parents of special needs children are more often exhausted and sometimes even depressed. You need to be strong and energized to take care of your child, and this means you need to take care of yourself too.
Remember to eat well, rest sufficiently, and take some time for yourself as well. Surround yourself with people who understand you for support and positivity. Avoid pity, keep your daily routines as normal as possible and find programs that support you, your child, and all members of the family. Government programs like NDIS (Australia) and specialist support coordination would help your child live a normal life despite their disabilities and special needs.
Parenting a Child With Special Needs: The Unplanned Journey
Parenting a child with special needs is not easy, but try not to look at the disability in everything they do. Understand age-appropriate behavior because your child may also go through the stages like other typical kids. Research how their disability may affect their developmental milestones.
Look for their strengths and make decisions based on the long-term goal of helping them become independent. Beyond that, you should not try to overprotect or overcompensate and always make time for the rest of your family.
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