Facing the Challenges of Raising Children with Special Needs
One thing is certain about raising children with special needs: it’s an emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs are different for everyone, but the general contours of the experience are the same. It can be intense. Fortunately, there are many ways you can nurture and advocate for your child while still taking care of your own needs.
Common Emotions Experienced by Parents of Special Needs Children
From the moment your child’s disability is diagnosed, you’ll experience a range of emotions: anger, worry, love, hope, and everything in between. All of these feelings are normal. Here are a few of the emotions parents and caregivers of kids with special needs have reported feeling:
- Anger towards a partner, the child, the medical system, or the educational system.
- Fear over the child’s future and safety.
- Feelings of isolation due to depression or not wanting to interact with others.
- Grief at the loss of the “normal” child you had imagined or of plans for your child’s future.
- Guilt for being unable to protect your child.
- Resentment toward others with “normal” children.
Many parents are simply overwhelmed after they learn the details of a child’s diagnosis and special needs. They might have known in their hearts the gist of the problem, but a diagnosis and a treatment plan bring new responsibilities and duties to an already busy life. Dealing with insurance, new financial concerns, appointments with specialists, therapy, medications, and many other details are piled on.
Parents: Take Care of Yourselves
The stress of balancing career and family -- and balancing the needs of a child with disabilities with the needs of other children -- can also take a toll.
It’s important to take care of yourself. Try these tips to de-stress:
- Establish a regular exercise routine.
- Maintain your friendships and social activities. A social support system is invaluable, especially for stressed parents.
- Try various forms of meditation until you find one you like.
- Plan fun activities with the whole family.
- Schedule special “alone time” with your partner/spouse or a close friend.
- Hire a babysitter or respite caregiver to give yourself a break.
- Read uplifting books written by other caregivers of children with special needs.
- Focus on the present instead of fretting about the future.
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