Saturday, August 03, 2013

Parenting a Special Needs Child

When we first have our pregnancy confirmed—especially among first time moms—our heads immediately fill with visions of the ideal journey we’ll be taking with our new son or daughter:  the first steps, the piano recitals, the sports games, and on into their adulthood's. Whether it’s through an ultrasound or in the wake of your delivery, bad news can smash all of those hopes in an instant.

Finding out your child is afflicted with a serious mental or physical affliction is going to be difficult— no matter what; however, it doesn't mean you’ll necessarily be robbed of the joys of parenthood and childhood.  It will mean that you’ll have to let go of expectations, and continue ahead with a spirit of truth and acceptance in your heart.

Redefining normal

 Once new mothers get over the initial shock of learning their child may not lead the “normal” life they had in mind, many mothers immediately go into an unrealistic damage control mode.  You may have accepted the affliction is real, but the obsession to fix the problem can be an elaborate form of denial.

In cases in which prospects for recovery or treatment are still up in the air, it’s good to stay optimistic—but be emotionally prepared to face the more negative end of the spectrum of possible outcomes. In a way, the path you’ll take with a special needs child is not that different from any other son or daughter, in that your entire routine will have to be renegotiated in a whole new way. That routine may be a demanding one, but in time, it will seem less challenging.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you give your child the best care possible, but avoid falling into a bottomless guilt trap for not being perfect at every junction. Furthermore, remember that it’s not all your fault. Many parents of children with special needs irrationally feel that they’ve done something wrong or cursed their child with flawed genes. This may be unreasonable, but pain can distort the way we think.

Don’t lose yourself.

 A big part of building a life with a special needs child involves not losing your identity in the folds of your son or daughter’s affliction. Especially if you haven’t gone through the “normalizing” process just discussed, you may find yourself chasing a miracle cure to the corners of the earth.  Along the way, all of your mental and spiritual energy may be drained.  Though it may sound superficial, you don’t want to max out your family’s finances on treatments that only promise a shadow of hope. That may not only strain your other important relationships, but can also come back in the form of resentment toward your child.

Find a sense of balance and gratitude If there is one secret to being a parent of a child facing special challenges, it’s to find the happy medium between doing everything you can and accepting not only your child’s limitations, but your own limitations as well. Once you’ve gotten to that place of peace, you’ll probably be overcome with a sense of thankfulness for the blessings you do have. In cases where your child has a high risk or potentially terminal condition, finding peace can be especially difficult;however, this is when you really need to appreciate every single day. Often, this wave of gratitude will wash over to your other relationships, making you appreciate the little things about your spouse or other children in a whole new way. Often, parents with special children become so accustomed to the needs of their child that the problem is almost forgotten. And even then, you’ll still face the same day-to-day misadventures, accidents and disappointments that any child must go through. With strength, honesty and a lot of love, you’ll enjoy your child for the miracle he or she is. Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer in Los Angeles who writes on everything from business and marketing, to health and supplements, to tech and gaming for Northwest. She has a special needs child of her own and enjoys helping others by sharing her own life experiences.

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