Parenting is complicated, and being the parent of a special needs child adds a layer of complexity to that complication that most would find overwhelming. One of the most important things for you to do as a special needs parent is to take care of yourself. That may seem like a little bit of a paradox, but the bottom line is you are not going to be as effective as a parent to your special needs child if you don’t put your physical, emotional and even spiritual wellness first.
Get Enough Rest
Parenting can be exhausting. Parenting a special needs child is sometimes doubly tiring because, in addition to all of your traditional responsibilities, you have to manage doctor’s visits, therapies and advocating for your child in the medical and educational systems. Add on the constant physical and emotional stress you experience on a daily basis and it’s easy not to notice you’re exhausted—even after a decent night’s sleep.
Carving out time for you to rest during the day is essential to your overall health. Of course, suggesting that immediately sets off the little voice in your head that says, ‘Oh, no! I have to do this, and then I have to do that’ and that’s exactly why you should give yourself a time out. That doesn’t mean taking an hour-long nap in the middle of the day, even if you could. It means slowing down for a few minutes and taking a breather—whatever that looks like for you.
Make a Connection with a Special Needs Parent
Being the parent of a special needs child can be isolating. You may not have the same opportunities to connect with parents of non-special needs kids because your lives are so different. On the other hand, you may avoid those connections because it’s difficult to watch children doing things that your child may not yet be able to do. Whatever the case, connecting with other special needs parents can benefit you both socially and emotionally. It may also give your child the opportunity to socialize in a more welcoming environment.
Talk About It Being a Special Needs Parent
Sometimes it may difficult for you to talk about your special needs child. Other times you may want to shout from the rooftops about a little victory—or maybe a big victory—he or she had today. One of the ways you can create a safe place for you to talk about your special needs child is to let people know what you want that to look like. When someone asks, ‘How’s Jack?’, it’s very easy to feel suddenly overwhelmed and shut down with a simple, ‘Good.’, leaving it at that. If you can find a way to respond with specific details, like, ‘Jill and I went to the zoo yesterday, and she really loved it.’ It sends a message that your child whole person with thoughts and feelings who should be thought of that way. Your child is not his or her disability, but a child with a disability. Helping others to see your special needs child in that way will open avenues of genuine conversation for you with others.
You’re Only Human…and That’s a Good Thing
It’s likely you’ve been pushed to your limit as a special needs parent. It’s also likely that has given you the opportunity to grow in ways you never thought you would. Being the parent of a special needs child is probably the hardest thing you will ever do, and it is also probably one of the most beneficial experiences a person could have. It is sometimes frustrating, disheartening and exhausting. Counseling can help during those challenging times. It can help you identify and process a teachable moment—or a whole bunch of teachable moments—for you that give you the chance to learn patience, empathy and compassion for others. It may sometimes be a challenge to keep that in front of you, but finding ways to remind yourself that your situation is not just a burden, in many ways it’s also a blessing.
If you are the parent of a special needs child and finding that challenge overwhelming, feel free to call Michelle Williams at 860-258-4171 or contact her here to set up an appointment to explore how we can support you on your journey.