Special needs parenting is a different kind of parenting altogether. How do you survive parenting when you have to deal with a child with special needs?
Parenting is one of the most amazing things you can experience as a person.
However, there is no one-size fit all to parenting. It’s a real job that could be exhausting in the long run. It takes a lot of work, effort, patience and time to become a good parent to your children.
But what if you happen to become a parent to someone with special needs?
In this post, we will cover some helpful Christian strategies for special needs parents who face the struggle of parenting at a much different level.
Parenting a special needs child
To the outside world, families and parents with a special needs child may look normal from the outside.
But the truth is, you can be exhausted and stressed, lonely and hurting, confused even and worse, unsure of the future.
The feeling of hopelessness is normal especially with the fact that it takes a special kind of caring to look after someone with special needs.
Unlike other diseases that can be easily explained and treated, a special needs child is much more unique and complex. Every child’s case is different and unique.
You might even feel alone because you have to look after a child with special needs. Numbers show that 15 percent of the U.S. population aged 5 and above have some sort of disability. That number translates to over 41 million Americans with 2.8 million being kids.
Just imagine the parents of those kids with special needs.
They too battle the loneliness and the daily challenges that come with raising a child with special needs.
But while loneliness can lead us to seek Christ, it can also lead us to feel isolated. Worse, we might feel self-pity thinking that none understands what we’re going through.
With all those challenges, we must learn how to run towards Christ to find strength, peace, comfort and joy. We must ask Him to give us the grace not just to survive each day, but to become the best version of a parent to guide and care for our child with special needs.
Family Implications – In a Nutshell
having a child with special needs both have positive and negative implications for every family.
On the good side, children with disabilities can enhance the bond that makes them a family. It can also encourage you to connect to church or other support groups to help you with raising your child. Caring for someone with special needs can also broaden your thinking, strengthen your faith and cause you to mature more as a parent and as an individual.
On the other hand, caring for a special needs’ child can be exhausting. The tiredness you feel though is not only physical. It can be mental and emotional, too. Also, taking care of your child with special needs would require additional time and costs for specialized care which you may not have at the moment. These things can put a considerable strain for you as a parent and as a family especially when you’re unsure what to do.
But the good thing is, there are other parents out there who care for a special child. Sometimes, a family can be taking care of not just one, but two or more special children in the family.
What this means is that you can still find hope. And here are a few more encouragement to help you get through a difficult day when caring for your child with special needs.
You are not alone.
With almost 3 million kids diagnosed with special needs every year, you can be sure that you are not the only parent struggling with caring for special children. Other families may not have the same symptom as your child, but the challenges they face every day would be similar.
It’s good if you can find and build a strong network of support to get ideas on how to care for your special child the best. Not only will you find a support group, you can also make new friends who can guide you and help you along the way.
On a Christian perspective: While caring for your special needs child can feel like a lonely endeavor, know that you are never alone. God’s promise is sure that it is Him who will go before you and be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Just imagine, just when you think you can’t go on, there is God who will hold you up with His strength and fill your heart with peace and joy. If people around you are not available to help, seek God and pray for strength and His intervention.
Sometimes, all it takes is a sincere prayer before Him and He will readily answer.
You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay.
No parent is perfect. You are bound to make mistakes, but that’s okay. There’s no one-size fit all manual on how to be a good parent. Every child is different. You can’t beat yourself up if you think you didn’t do so well as a mother/father to your child, especially if he or she has special needs.
On a Christian perspective: Instead of beating yourself up, ask God for wisdom on how to handle any of your parenting situation at home (James 1:5). Like a good Father, God gives generously and He will not rebuke you for not knowing what to do as a parent.
When you learn your mistakes, strive to be better and ask God for the grace to be able to do the things that you do to care for your child with special needs.
You’re not too old to play.
You might think that as a parent, it’s no longer fitting that you play with your children. The truth is, it’s even more important that you play with your children when they have special needs.
There are many benefits of sensory play and one of those is that it helps build your child’s intrinsic motivation and imagination.
When it comes to your special needs child, playing with them is also one way to bond with them. When you bond with them, you help them develop their motor and social skills. Plus, you let them play with people they love the most and are most comfortable with.
On a Christian perspective: You may not always have the patience or the energy to play with your kids. But just like what the Bible tells us, our love for our children will cause us to be gentle and patient with them. Patience will also lead us to a better understanding (Proverbs 14:29).
When we play with our kids, we are not just having fun with them, we are also exercising our patience and at the same time gaining more understanding on how to help them.
When the going gets tough, assure and strengthen your heart.
As a parent of a child with special needs, there will be times when you have to make painful decisions. Think along the lines of the constant fear and challenge that your child will be looked upon by others simply because they’re different.
There’s also the fact that for a child with special needs, simple milestones can become great achievements when accomplished by them.
On a Christian perspective: When you have to make a tough decision involving your special needs child, assure your heart before God (1 John 3:21). Be confident that you’re doing what’s best for your child as their parent.
Trust the hand of God in everything you and you will find inner peace in the decisions you’ll be making. Let God be in control of the situation when it seems too great a burden to bear for you and your family.
Additionally, there are a few things you can do to help raise your child with special needs.
Find a support system
You are not the only parent raising up a special needs child. The good thing about that is that there are available support systems that you can find where you can ask for help.
Ask for help
Aside from your pediatrician or therapist perhaps, make sure that you make a habit of asking for help to help raise your child. Asking for help is not a weakness. It’s wisdom because you can take advantage of other parents’ experiences and avoid the struggle of doing things on your own.
Don’t forget other members of your family.
It can be easy to get lost in taking care of your child with special needs that you forget about other members of your family. Sometimes it’s your spouse. At other times, it can be your other children. Make sure that you spend quality as well with other members of your household so they won’t feel neglected.
Take care of yourself.
As the major caretaker of your child with special needs, you might find caring for yourself as the least of your priorities. But as a mother/father in charge of the house and the welfare of your kids, taking care of yourself is a must. Eat and rest. Do something to help you unwind and relax.
Make sure that you also involve other members of your family in taking care of their sibling with special needs when appropriate to lighten the load on your end. You are not alone in this battle. God has given you the right people to help you. Allow them.
Parenting is really challenging. It’s even more so when you become a parent to someone with special needs.
The stress and exhaustion that comes with parenting a child become more because you have to consider the fact that your child with special needs will need even more care than typical children. It can also bring a lot of stress and pressure to other members of your family.
The good news is there’s hope. Keep your faith as you raise your child with special needs. The journey may be tougher and longer than some parents, but it’s worth celebrating every milestone that your child achieves with your support and guidance to them.