Parenting is a job you never retire from. It’s a job for life. The decision to walk with your heart outside your body for every day of your life. This makes it clear that parenting is no mean feat. The challenges of parenting are enormous and when you are a parent to a child with special needs, some of those challenges get a whole lot bigger. Planning a simple meal might take more effort in order to accommodate your child’s dietary needs, or an everyday outing might require more equipment than typically needed. The responsibilities get bigger, the challenges more unique while the resources available to help don’t magnify in the same way.
With so much constant planning, organising and modifying, parents of special needs also have unique parental needs. It can be exhausting and here’s what you can do to thrive
This is a mantra for all parents and all the more when you have a child with special needs. It really takes a village to raise a child. You cannot do it all alone. Don’t feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness or that you have failed somehow, when in reality it means you are wise enough to know that sometimes, you need someone else’s expertise and help to get through. Asking for help about challenges you don’t feel equipped to handle can give you a new perspective and new knowledge to help you understand and help your child better.
Although it might seem like you have absolutely no time for it, self-care is crucial to your well-being. While you are constantly caring for others, you still deserve to be taken care of. Setting aside some “me-time” for yourself isn’t being selfish, but understanding that you just can’t fill from an empty cup. Self-care can mean different things for different people, so take some time to figure out what leaves you rejuvenated and feeling more capable. It can be time alone, time with friends, kid-free time, enjoying a hobby and of course, exercise and good nutrition are non-negotiable to good health. Most of all, be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can.
Raising a child with special needs can mean you spend a lot of time at therapy, doctor appointments, researching treatments, taking your child to various sessions. While you are immersed in all of this, it can leave you with little time for conversations and interaction outside your child’s needs. Build a strong support system for yourself, surround yourself with friends and family who support you, find your tribe. And every once in a while, sign up for some catching up with friends. You need this more than you realise.
Having a child with special needs can also have an impact on your finances. You might need increased financial planning to provide your child with certain equipment, enrol in therapy, specialised schooling and medical help. While it can seem daunting at first, arming yourself with knowledge about the financial benefits, tax concessions and various government schemes you are entitled to can provide some relief.
Knowing that you are not alone can take away half the emotional burden you feel. Learning from others who have walked a few steps in your shoes can make you better equipped to handle your child’s unique needs. Thanks to the popularity of social media, it is much easier to connect with other parents, through various groups made for specific disabilities and special needs. A great advantage of many of these groups is the ability to participate and connect virtually, which means you can talk to parents from around the globe and find it easier to fit this into your hectic schedule.
As Sue Atkins once said “There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one”, remember you are exactly what your child needs.
Everyone needs a little helping hand once in a while. Our counsellors at Tactopus are here to help. Do not hesitate to reach out to us.