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Any mom will tell you that the daily demands of parenting are sometimes overwhelming, mostly rewarding, but absolutely endless. These demands are multiplied when parenting a child with special needs. (I know, I care for a son with Down syndrome.) Other parents of children with special needs and I must work our butts off to see that our children are getting their needs met and excelling in every way available to them. And we’re worried out of our minds, exhausted and stretched way too thin. Over time, we’re bound to see our health suffer. I have a few ideas about ways in which parents of children with special needs are getting it wrong — and some suggestions to make our lives happier and more manageable.
Children with special needs often can’t communicate effectively, attend regular school or take care of their everyday self-care. But is it really true that these children aren’t perfect as they are? Our society has pretty rigid standards as to what is good and what is bad, and unfortunately, that which is different is often considered the latter. But in truth, just because someone is different doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. It simply means they are different. The moment we let go of the idea that something is wrong with our children, we’ll feel free to parent them unconditionally and love them as they are. More importantly, our children will detect a shift within us, because these children are usually very sensitive to energy. They will do better and feel better when they don’t detect resistance within their parents or caregivers.
We apologize for having children who are different and needing unique care.
Again, there is nothing wrong with our children. So we don’t need to apologize for asking for something different or more specialized than is offered to typical children. Don’t apologize for their behavior or ask them to behave “more acceptably” than they are capable of.
We have so much to do right now that worrying about a negative future event is a complete waste of energy and time. Recognize yourself for all the hard work you are doing now.
We blame ourselves.
We often ask ourselves what we did to make this happen to our children. In her recent memoir, Toni Braxton said that she thought her son’s autism was a direct result of her having had an abortion previously. That idea is nonsense. Our babies are no one’s “fault,” nor are they retribution for some past undesirable action we may have taken. Do we think our healthy and typical children are a direct result of some good thing we have done? Is the idea that our children are a result of something we did in our past something we’d like our children to know of? How would that make them feel? Let the blame scenario go! We are not the cause for our children’s special needs. All sorts of random things happen in our lives, and having a child with special needs is one of them.
We worry about the future.
I have never spoken to a parent of a child with special needs that wasn’t asking himself or herself, “What will happen to my child when I’m gone?” For a while I asked myself this question a lot, but recently I realized I was too busy in the present to be worried about the future. Yes, it is important to plan for the future, and such planning can help bring us peace of mind. That said, we have so much to do right now that worrying about a negative future event is a complete waste of energy and time. Stop worrying about what’s to come and start planning for success. Recognize yourself for all the hard work you are doing now. Take a moment to notice you and your child’s wins, celebrate your community, and live in the moment.
We feel sorry for ourselves.
Parenting a child with special needs can be very demanding in ways that differ from parenting typical children. Sometimes we look at the lives of other parents and think “woe is me.” It may seem that they have it so much better and easier than we do. The truth is everyone has their struggles and life challenges. The question is, will we become what is needed to meet those struggles? Will we rise to the occasion? If we are focused on being the parent our children need and deserve, feeling sorry for ourselves will last for just a season and resilience will become our new default.
Someone once told me that I need to understand how blessed I am to be the parent of my son. Yes, I know that, but I took that moment to really take it in. We are all blessed to be trailblazers in creating the best lives for our children. Rather than squander this blessing, let’s do what we can so that our children flourish and show the world what else is possible.