If you are a parent of a special needs child, you know that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. It is not only tiring, but also exhausting. The little things that seem so easy for “normal” parents are the hardest. It can lead to a burn out quickly. Special Needs Parents face a number of unique challenges that a typical family doesn’t face. The challenges can seem daunting and difficult to navigate.
Here are 14 survival strategies that you and your family can use to help you cope and maneuver around some of these challenges.
1. Overcoming Guilt and Worry
Special needs parents often feel guilty and worry a lot, which is a tough emotional burden to carry. One of the biggest challenges is learning how to overcome this guilt and worry that can come with the territory. You want to do everything you can to help your child, right from the moment they are born. The guilt you feel is just an indication of how much you love them and how important they are to you. It’s important to know you’re not alone, and there is help available. Being a special needs parent is about embracing it and finding ways to continue to be a good parent. It’s really important to remember that you can provide comfort and encouragement when they need it most. It’s important to encourage your children as often as you can, and to tell them how proud you are of everything they do.
2. Overcoming Insecurity
As a Special Needs Parent, it’s often hard to feel like you don’t know the right thing to do. You may also find it difficult to trust yourself. Many parents feel the need to defer to the opinions of others, and they may feel insecure about their parenting decisions. You don’t have to put yourself down or second-guess your decisions, though. You are a qualified, capable parent. Many parents experience these feelings of insecurity about parenting decisions. Even if you feel like you're not doing a good enough job, it helps to remember that you are not alone. There are many other parents in your position, struggling to find their way. There are many resources available. Reach out for help and guidance.
3. Overcoming Fear
Special Needs Parents usually struggle with a few different fears. The most common are the fear of messing up or not being perfect, the fear of failure, and the fear of letting their children down. They need to learn to overcome their fear, to be less self-conscious and more accepting of themselves. They don't need to worry about what other people think if they’re trying to do what’s best for their kids. The important thing is that they give the love and attention needed to their special needs children.
4. Overcoming Imperfections
Special needs parents need to work to overcome imperfections, to live for the good and to laugh when we can. Our kids are not perfect, but they are perfect for us. There is no other in the world who will have what we have with them. Special needs parenting is a constantly changing process and it requires an open mind and a constant willingness to adjust in order to best meet the child’s needs. The more grounded, flexible, and adaptive you are, the more likely you’ll be able to meet the needs of your special needs child. It's important to focus on what you can do, and not on what you can't.
It is so important that parents of special needs children have a positive attitude and always remember to be grateful. Not only is it important for their own mental health, but it’s vital for the emotional well-being of their child. An attitude of gratitude is the key to maintaining positive vibes. Gratitude reframes your thought process to focus on the good things in your life. Even when you are focusing on what might need to change, keep appreciating the positives in your life.
6. Resilience and Perseverance
Parents of kids with special needs know that it can be a journey and not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of emotional and physical resources to care for a child with special needs. That’s why it’s important to have resilience and perseverance. Those two things will allow you to thrive in the long-term. Resilience is about bouncing back from the difficulties a person faces and perseverance is about sticking with a difficult thing even if it becomes overwhelming. Of course, it's not easy. It’s difficult and it’s a daily challenge, but this is a skill which is acquired and not inborn.
7. Financial Safety Net
Special needs can come with different types of expenses, including therapy and medical expenses, as well as childcare, education expenses, and transportation. To properly prepare for the future, it’s important you have a financial safety net to cover these expenses. Setting aside money in an emergency fund is also important to take care of any unexpected expenses. Remember when you save, you give yourself a sense of stability.
8. Self Care
As a Special Needs Parent, it's extremely important for you to take care of yourself. You might feel your self-care has to take a backseat to taking care of your child and you're not alone in this feeling. One of the easiest ways to take better care of yourself is to exercise. When you exercise, you're improving your mood, reducing stress, and strengthening your immune system so you can better ward off illness. Eating a healthier, well-balanced diet is equally important. So remember to get enough sleep, balance your diet, and make sure you're exercising. Remember when you take care of your physical and mental health you are a happy person and a happy person makes a happy parent.
9. Live Life and Laugh
Special needs parents need to remember that in spite of the stress and worry that comes with their children's specific needs, they need to live their lives and take time to laugh. It can be easy to get lost in the challenging and demanding work of caring for their child. Parents should take some time away from their home routine and go do something kid-free for a while. There are plenty of ways to do this, like getting a baby sitter for those special nights, seeking out resources to make their life easier or attending social events with other parents of special needs kids. Hobbies and interests that are light and fun can also be a great help. It'll help them stay fresh as a parent.
10. Celebrate Victories
Having a child with special needs can be a difficult journey, but you have to celebrate the victories, no matter how tiny those victories may be. It is important to remember that raising children is like a marathon, not a sprint. One day at a time. Celebrate with your kids every time they do something well. The key to this is not to make it seem like a big deal or a chore. It could be anything from tying their shoelaces without any support, or trying a new food or a visit to the dentist without a meltdown.
11. Community Support
Parenting can be a difficult activity, especially when you have a child with special needs. All other parents with children with special needs can provide valuable insight into how you can best support your child. You should always remember to look out for the support groups in your community. They can help you access the resources in your area that best suit your needs. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your parenting journey. Learning from other Special Needs Parents can help you adapt to any situation you might face.
12. Emotional Support
When you’re a special needs parent, it can be emotionally taxing. It can be tough to find the emotional resources you need, especially when you’re juggling parenthood and other responsibilities. You might feel like you don’t have enough emotional support, or be embarrassed to ask for help. Asking for help isn’t shameful. Compassionate family and friends are a great place to start because they know what you’re going through and give you the support you need. Reach out.
13. Advocating for your child.
As a Special Needs Parent, it’s your responsibility to advocate for your Special Needs Child. You can rarely rely on the school or the government to do it for you. This means being your child’s strongest advocate. You need to make sure that they get what they deserve. It takes a lot of courage and strength to advocate for your child. It can feel like your words don't matter because you're not the one making the decisions. But that's not the truth. You have a voice and it's important to use it. You can share your perspective with friends, family, and people in the Special Needs Community. You have an opinion and it's important that you make it heard.
14. Planning for the future
Special needs parents need to focus and plan for the future. Decisions like who would take care of their child when they are not able to do it themselves or things like their Child’s employment and medical evaluations after they are gone are important considerations. It is important to plan ahead and speak to an advisor or contact a trust, lawyer or financial advisor about how to generate the funds for the future support of your child. If there is a way to DIY this yourself, then you should. If it is too complicated or you don't have the skills to do this, then this book “What will Happen to my Special Needs Child When I am Gone?” by Susan Jules will be a great help.
There are so many challenges and frustrations that can come with parenting children with special needs. It can be a frustrating process filled with obstacles. It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But there is hope. Be a parent to your children and create an environment of hope and success. Be encouraging to them even when it feels like they are not getting anywhere. Successful parenting is a constant work in progress and though it can be difficult it is important not get discouraged and to always have hope in your hearts.
Are there any survival tips you can think of? Let us know in the comments below.