"Being a special needs parent can change you, it can change you for the better, it's all upto you." - Marianne Russo.
Parenting is a wonderful experience with many challenges, even more so if you have a special kid. Many couples struggle with parenting but it is much harder to raise a special child. With special needs children, one needs to think about various aspects that could impact the lives of the parents as well as the child.
Many parents go through phases of asking themselves, "Why me?" and feelings of hopelessness. They will also go through stressful days with additional work load, the stress of childcare, when they see other kids do better than their child, etc. This situation is difficult for parents, but it is equally tough for the children too. They do need special care and parents can do various things to make things comfortable for these special kids.
Research in the field of special needs has come up with the following suggestions which have proved to be helpful for many parents:
Signs shown by kids can be picked up at a very early age. Hyperactivity, abnormal motor activity, delayed speech and lack of interest in different play situations can be a few things to look out for. There may be a tendency for parents to think that the things will become better with time; this can lead to more harm. Do not ignore these signs and seek professional help to get more clarity. It is a very important step towards your child's future. Studies have shown the positive effect of rightly timed diagnoses. When we are uncertain about the disability of our child, the diagnosis will help us to bring in more clarity and by giving us a concrete plan to work on.
Parent to parent support
Meeting other parents with similar experiences has been proved to benefit many people. For parents of special needs children, it can be difficult to go out with their children at times and their social life gets locked up in the house itself. In such cases, we can get more ideas and support from other couples - what worked for them and what might just work for you too. This is also a good stress buster for most parents.
Have you yelled at your kids at times when they were struggling with their disability? It might have left you feeling guilty and sad afterwards but do remember that the frustration you feel is quite natural. However, it can have a negative effect on the child. Every child makes mistakes; with special kids it's just that their needs make them more prone to errors. Positive parenting is not a wish; it can be converted into an actual practice by anyone.
You could plan family outings in order to bond more with your child. It is also a good idea to talk to your special kid and try to know more about their school experiences. A study done in India showed that a warm and involved parenting style improved the future of the child. There were lesser chances of school dropout and better results in vocational learning.
When both parents are involved at work, it leaves them with lesser time with the child. In such cases, they can plan out their working hours by exploring various options in their workplaces. Perhaps one of them can look out for work from home options, flexible timings, etc. Both parents need to understand their responsibilities. Sometimes professional help can help bring up possible ways to make things go smoother - for example, speech therapy, open-schools, vocational training centers and NGO's.
The child belongs to both parents and mothers are not solely accountable for parenting. Fathers play a very important role in the child's life too. Dividing household and childcare responsibilities among all family members can bring some relief to parents. Partners can also share their positive and negative feelings with each other, as this helps release stress.
What is important for the child?
Acceptance - Many of us tend to ignore these signs in the hope of them getting better one day. However, denial of the child's condition can be harmful.
Expectations - It can indeed be painful to see your 4 year old child at the same pace with a 1 year old. But try and see the positives side of the situation. Do not expect too much too soon and appreciate the small steps your little one is taking.
Education - Special needs children can face difficulties studying in a normal school. Open schools, art classes and special schools can help them with their education.
Points for the Parents:
Finances - Parents can have difficulty managing expenses when taking care of a special kid. It is good to start saving early when your child is very young so that it becomes easier to manage later on.
Emotions - Share your feelings with others. Talk about the efforts that go in everyday situations while handling your child's needs. You might be feeling emotions like sadness, hurt and confusion, and this can be shared with others. It helps to release one's feelings in a healthy manner. Certain mindfulness activities can also help you during this journey. If you would like to discuss these, feel free to reach out to our counselors.
Hobbies - Chances are that you may have forgotten about your own interests in the process of raising your child. Do go back and revive them as it helps release stress.
Health - Are you eating right? How is your health? Keeping yourself fit can help you raise your child better.
Relationships - Do look at the needs of your own relationships with your spouse and others. It is common for care-givers to forget these aspects as they bring up their child.
Among all of this, try to explore your child's strengths. There are many things that will support you in the journey of parenting a special kid; make the most of them. This is not an easy path but by taking small steps, it can get easier over time.