Parenting a child with special needs is a difficult journey. You can do everything right as a parent, but there are some factors out of your control – whether it’s when you can’t be with your child or the public stigma they will face from ignorant people.
But how can you protect your child when you’re not together? How can you guarantee you’re doing the best you can at all times?
Source: Jaren Jai Wicklund
Whether it’s having your child wear an autism ID bracelet or being forgiving of yourself, you can raise your child to the best of your ability — without stressing yourself out unnecessarily.
- You’re Not Alone
As a parent of a child with special needs, you’re bound to think that you’re in it all alone. You’ll eventually interact with other parents, whose children do not have special needs, and you’ll realize they do not have to consider the things you and your partner do. It can lead to you feeling isolated, as if it is your burden alone to carry – but you’re not!
Many parents with children who have special needs understand this struggle, and they will tell you it’s important to know there are others like you out there. Whether it’s a support group for parents or your child, you can effectively parent your child without feeling isolated.
- Patience Above All Else
The biggest thing you can learn as a parent is that patience is a virtue. This is especially true for raising a child who has special needs, and it’s an incredibly important lesson to pass on to all other adults interacting with your child, whether they be your child’s teachers and therapists, another child’s parents or your neighbors.
- There Will Be Challenges
As with the above, you need to remain patient. Why? Because as much as you plan ahead, no parent is perfect. We all make mistakes and there’s no foolproof way of knowing how your child will react to stimulants, actions and more.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I don’t feel reassured by knowing things will go poorly.” We get it. But don’t wallow in your mistakes and the challenges you’ll face. Parenting is all about learning! Do what feels right and allow yourself to learn along the way, giving your child your best at every turn.
- Don’t Overwork Where It’s Unneeded
Some parents will do everything possible to make their child happy, especially if their child is exceptionally picky about fine details. It could be creating the perfect lunch or ensuring that their day always goes according to plan.
Wanting to provide your child the world is natural for any parent. But you need to understand your limits, too. Give what you can, but don’t allow yourself to get lost in the mix. Parenting is a balancing act. Learn to let go whenever you can.
Source: James Doberman
- You Need to Pace Yourself
Similar to learning your limits, you need to understand that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no breaks as a parent. Your child will almost always need something, whether it’s personal support or care. You don’t need to win every mile of the race; rather, make sure you maintain pace and get to the finish line without hitting the wall along the way.
Give your child the same. Don’t push yourself until you have nothing left to give. Give them what you can every mile, keeping pace from start to finish.
- Keep a Morning Routine
Research has shown that children with special needs benefit from routines and structure. The consistency helps to develop a schedule they acclimate to, where they can learn the cyclical nature of one day from the next. This can include waking up, showering, getting dressed, having breakfast and preparing for the school day. That sense of routine can be essential to instilling comfort, as they can learn what to expect day after day.
- Have Them Wear a Medical Bracelet
It might not sound like much, but a medical alert bracelet can truly benefit your child. It’s a surefire way to inform other adults and bystanders of your child’s condition in the event that they enter into a troublesome situation or have a medical emergency. Listing their form of special needs — down syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis, ADD, bi-polar — can be essential to keeping them safe whenever you’re not around.
- Give Your Child Independence
Disengaging as a parent of a child with special needs is difficult. You’ll feel as if you need to keep a watchful eye over your child at every moment of the day, especially when they are young. But you need to give them their independence.
It’s difficult to disconnect, especially as they’re growing up. But refusing to give them their independence can lead to future issues and habits which will be hard to break, such as them being overly attached to you or your partner. Give them their space, allow them to make decisions and let them make a life of their own. It’s important to do as a parent, even if it feels like the wrong thing every now and then.
Source: NDAB Creativity
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Families
It might feel tempting to compare yourself to the families around you, whether those that are in your neighborhood or part of your child’s school system. This especially goes for parents who do not have children with special needs.
It’s understandable. Their family dynamic will be very different from your own. But it is not worth it. Their dynamic is different because their family is different. And different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different.
Making comparisons won’t make you feel better about yourself or your child. And even if it does, it’s not right to do to other people. Live your life and raise your child to the best of your ability. Don’t let the lives of others influence how you look at your own.
- You Deserve Care, Too
Above all else, you can’t lose yourself while raising your child. Part of becoming a parent is accepting that you’re giving a percentage of your life to raising your child. Parenting a child with special needs will take more time and patience, but you shouldn’t allow yourself to get lost in the process. Still take time for yourself, whether it’s focusing on your hobbies, taking time to relax or going to therapy.
Give your child everything you can, but don’t allow your relationship or personal — mental or physical — health to be negatively affected. Parenting is a balancing act. Make sure you and your child are cared for.