Resources for Coping Responses of Parents
The ability of parents to respond to the stress of having a child with a disabling condition is based on two categories of resources available to them: internal resources and external resources.
Kirk and Gallagher (1989) find that some families are successful in coping with having children with disabilities, while some are not. Families that are successful "call on internal and external means of support for the strength to deal with the special needs of their children" (p. 22).
There are five internal resources that are closely related to parents' coping responses. These five resources are described in the paragraphs that follow.
The Degree of Perceived Control or Lack of Control of the Situation
Using its own internal resources, a family can find it somewhat easier to adjust to life with a child with disabilities (Gallagher, 1986). Examples of internal resources are:
- A mother who is satisfied with her marriage
- A father who is supportive
- Financial security
- A commitment to a set of values (for example, strong religious beliefs)
- The support of relatives, friends, and parents of other children with handicaps (Kirk & Gallagher, 1989, pp. 22-23)
Families may perceive the situation of having a child with disabilities in different ways. As a result, some may withdraw, while others may see it as a challenge. Turnbull and Turnbull (1990) give specific examples:
If we interpret an event negatively, we think of it as threatening our well-being or creating needs-in other words, it is stressful to us. If on the other hand, we interpret an event positively, we think of it as enhancing our well-being or satisfying our needs-in other words, we cope ... When we use an internal coping strategy, we revise our interpretations about an event that was originally perceived negatively, so that all or part of it can be perceived positively or at least neutrally. (p. 362)
Interactions in extended families with grandparents and other relatives such as uncles and aunts may be complex (Gabel & Kotsch, 1981). However, these extended family members may provide support and help (Caplan, 1976; Vadasy & Fewell, 1986). Professionals have started to realize the potential of grandparents as a significant source of support (Fewell, 1986a). Sonnek (1986) suggests that programs for extended family members, such as: (a) the family, infant, and toddler project; (b) the family intervention project; and (c) the grandparents' workshop, should focus on supporting the entire family and utilizing the existing helping relationships and patterns in the extended family on a day-to-day basis for effective family functioning.
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