Parenting a child – or adult – with special needs takes a special person, and can be a frustrating, difficult, and thankless job. On top of all of the worries, stresses, and responsibilities of any parent, you have the added doctors appointments, care, and concerns that come with being the parent of a child with special needs.
There are some things you need to know.
1. You Are Not Alone.
Even when it feels like it. Even when it feels like it’s you and your child against the world. Even when it feels like no one understands your child, or like the doctors aren’t listening, or that no one knows how you’re feeling. You’re not alone. There are others out there who, although they may not have the exact same situation or experiences, can relate to what you’re going through and can stand beside you. Look for support groups, whether online or in person, for parents of special needs children. There are also trained professionals who can listen to your deepest worries and all of your feelings. Talking to a counselor or therapist can be extremely helpful.
2. There Are Resources Available to Help You.
To piggyback off the last point, you also don’t have to DO this alone. There are resources available that can help you, whether financially, or with care for your child. A great place to start is our How to Get Services page.
3. Being a Parent is Hard, and Being a Parent to a Child with Special Needs is Especially Hard.
But it is also especially rewarding. Parents of special needs children are passionate, and they get to see a side of life through their child’s eyes that many people don’t see. As challenging as it is, it is just as rewarding. It can be difficult not to get caught up in thought patterns and the stresses that come being the parent of a special needs child, but the relationship you have with your child and the rewards that come with that are priceless.
4. Don’t Lose Yourself
With a child who requires so much care and attention, it can be easy to let your own identity and self care slip through the cracks. Being a parent is only one part of your identity, though, even if it’s a big part. Take time for yourself, whether that means finding a hobby you enjoy, going on a date night with your spouse, or finding a sitter so you can just get out and have some “me” time.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Ask for what you need. This may seem repetitive after the first two points, but it bears repeating. You are not alone and there are resources out there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Caring for a child with special needs requires a lot – a lot of time, energy, and finances. It can be easy to feel like you need to do it all yourself or that no one else knows how to care for your child. Don’t let this stop you from asking for help. If you need a break from full time care, ask a friend or family member to step in or find a professional caretaker who is trained to care for those with special needs. There are resources and help available if you know where to look.
6. Don’t Compare
This is a challenge for all of us, but it is especially important when you are the parent of a child with special needs. All kids are different, and grow and develop at their own pace. It can be tempting to compare your child’s development and milestones to those of another child – whether typical or with special needs – but this only leads to dissatisfaction and is not fair to your child. The same goes for siblings or even others with the same disability. Even when your child grows into adulthood, comparing their abilities or where they’re at in life to others is fruitless. Your child is unique.
7. Prioritize Your Marriage
Just as self care is important, if you are married it is also important to make time for your marriage. Parenting in general is hard, and marriage in general is hard, and parenting a child with special needs can be extremely difficult on your marriage and other relationships. It is in the best interest of both you and your child for you to have regularly scheduled date nights and time with your spouse.
8. Go With Your Gut
You know your child better than anyone, and you are their biggest advocate. Their doctors, caretakers, therapists, and specialist are all great resources but only you see the big picture of your child’s care. If you feel they aren’t having their needs met or being treated correctly, it is always okay to get a second opinion or to switch doctors. Don’t be afraid to advocate and fight for your child.
9. Go Easy on Yourself
You’re not required to be perfect, or even to be the perfect parent. Parenting a child with special needs comes with lots of decisions and choices that may feel overwhelming and it can be easy to second guess yourself. Know that you are doing the best you can for your child, and that many of the toughest choices in life have no right answer.
10. You Are Your Child’s Hero
Every day since your child was born, you have done things that most parents never have to do. You have taken your child to countless appointments, therapists, and doctors. You have researched the best care for their needs. You have celebrated every victory, big or small. You somehow manage to stay sane among all of the stress of parenting a child with special needs. You never give up hope and you have helped your child accomplish things that doctors told you they never would. Everything you do may seem to go unnoticed, but you do it for your child.
Reach out to us with questions or for help or more resources!