FOR ALL THOSE PARENTING SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN
If you have a child with special needs then you and I are more alike than you may think.
Even if your child has a behavioral, cognitive or developmental issue while mine has a physical disability the same truth applies.
We both know fear, panic and sadness.
We both have shed tears over having that scary seed planted in the garden of our mind– that things can go wrong with children.
Not everyone grows up to be healthy and mobile.
Some children get sick and die, others simply never get better.
Whatever your case may be I want you to know you are not alone.
You may often feel like you are and trust me, at times I have felt that suffocating grasp of isolation too.
Even though you feel that way you are not alone.
Right now at this very point in time there are millions of moms in the world raising a special needs child.
Maybe they are not raising a child with the same disability as mine or your own child’s but they are still going through similar stresses, struggles and pain.
I have written a whole book on how to raise a happy and resilient child with special needs. From that book THEY SAY I’M SPECIAL – 100 TIPS FOR RAISING A HAPPY AND RESILIENT CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, here are my top five standout tips that you can begin to implement today.
TIP 1: ACCEPT YOUR SITUATION
God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can and WISDOM to know the difference – The Serenity Prayer
I think the single most beneficial thing a parent with a special needs child can do is accept their situation.
Accepting a situation does NOT mean you are giving up.
To the contrary it means you recognize and understand that your current situation – whatever that may be – is what it is.
Life often doesn’t go according to plan and that’s okay.
Acceptance means you understand this truth and that you are free from denial, leaving you to pursue other avenues to make your situation work.
People all around the world have embraced the Serenity Prayer and I feel like it encompasses the goal of a special-needs parent perfectly.
That’s because the key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think or wish it should be.
At some point you need to let go of what you thought should happen in your life and live in what is happening right now.
Sure you might not have planned to have a special needs child but that is what you were gifted with so learn to accept your reality.
Raising a child with any condition, disorder or special need is indeed both a blessing and a challenge.
It’s a challenge for many obvious reasons – financial, physical and emotional it can have its toll -and yet there is a blessing that comes from overcoming these challenges, from seeing your child prosper and flourish despite all odds.
When something bad happens you have three choices.
You can either let it define you, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you.
Serenity comes when you trade in your expectations for acceptance.
As Shakespeare once said expectation is the root of all heartache so expect nothing and appreciate everything.
TIP 2: TEACH YOUR CHILD THE REAL LESSONS IN LIFE
Ask yourself now – what is the role of a parent in a child’s life?
If you give this question some thought you will note that this position involves more than just one line in the job description.
For starters we must first and foremost be their provider – we are responsible for taking care of our children’s biological needs like providing proper food, fresh air and enough sleep.
We must also do our best to protect our children and make sure their environment is safe, nurturing and supportive so they can grow to be healthy.
More importantly we should ask ourselves “will they be happy”?
The reality is to our job as a parent is not merely limited to providing food, shelter and protection.
We have a greater impact and influence on your children’s lives and play a pivotal role in educating them about the world.
It in turns shapes their character.
We hold within our hands the power to build or deflate a child’s self-esteem, encourage or inhibit self-confidence, through example display optimism rather than pessimism.
Put simply we have the opportunity to guide them. So don’t just teach children how to count, teach children what counts most.
The following values are absolutely indispensable in life:
These can be instilled in your child by displaying the qualities in your own words and actions. Children learn what they see.
They follow your example and not your advice.
Whether you like it or not your children are watching what you do every day for their living.
It’s what they do whenever they are in your presence and that’s why it’s so important you do your best to be a good role model.
TIP 3: YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS ALWAYS HAPPY
When a child struggles with more than his or her fair share of burdens, like most children with special needs do, we have a tendency to want to remove some of that load.
And that is fine to do – of course if there’s something we can do to help them out we should be kind and supportive.
But that does not mean to say we must bend over backwards to make sure every minute of their life is filled with happiness.
– Remember you are not solely responsible for your child’s happiness.
– You don’t need to control your child as though he is a puppet.
– It’s okay to set limits and clearly defined boundaries.
– It’s okay to follow through on consequences if your child clearly disobeys or disrespects you and your rules.
– There is nothing wrong with being strict and making tough decisions that are not popular ones.
– Feel free to hold them accountable for their actions.
– You don’t need to do anything for your child that he is capable of doing himself.
– Remember if your child is capable of functioning independently in the long term this is something you need to encourage. Start with small stepping stones.
– Just do your best. Be patient. Be kind. But also be firm in your stance.
– We all fear our children will be permanently impacted by experiencing struggle but remember there is nothing wrong with your child experiencing some struggle in his or her life.
– Struggle brings strength. We grow as a result of it. If there is no struggle there is no progress.
TIP 4: BE YOUR CHILD’S NUMBER ONE ADVOCATE
Parenting experts say we should raise children to be independent and self-sufficient but the reality is some kids will always needs a helping hand.
When they are still young, they need a voice too – your voice.
More than anything your child needs you to fight for the things they desperately need but can’t achieve without adult intervention.
They need you to speak on their behalf if their own voice can’t be heard.
They need you to communicate to those who can do something positive and productive about their issues – communicate all their frustrations and desires so their thoughts, dreams and feelings can be addressed taken into consideration.
If you don’t stand up for your children who then will?
Being an advocate for your child is one of the most important roles you will ever play as a parent.
If your child is having difficulties they need to know that their situation and feelings will be heard and respected by others rather than being brushed aside, ignored or dismissed.
To help you become a better advocate for your child:
Know your child’s rights
Take the time to learn and understand the rights of your child for his or her particular situation.
It is important you know exactly what your child is entitled to so that you don’t waste people’s time or your own sanity asking for things you aren’t permitted to receive.
Try to be understanding
I usually like to give others the benefit of the doubt.
I recognise that schools just like people are capable of becoming strained or buckling under pressure so I try to be understanding if they miss something when it comes to supporting the needs of my child.
That of course does not mean you shouldn’t immediately communicate to the school if your child is suffering for whatever reason but there is more chance of success if you do so from a position of calm and reason rather than attack or anger.
Work with the school rather than against them
Following on from the previous point it helps to know that the school is usually ON YOUR SIDE.
They want the best for your child, just like you do, but they must also take into consideration all the other students under their care.
It therefore helps to be open-minded when you are speaking to the school about options for your child – usually there is more than one way to help a child fit in and be happy.
Allow for the possibility of creative alternatives and be open to listening to what they have to say.
Always be prepared for meetings
Meetings regarding your child are an important opportunity for you to ask all the questions on your mind and finally get some answers.
So make sure to note everything you are curious, anxious, worried or concerned about down onto paper. You want to use your time wisely as these opportunities to address issues head on are valuable.
TIP 5: STOP LETTING FEAR RULE YOUR LIFE
Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Jack Canfield
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear defeats more people than any other thing in the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of my favorite books is called Fear the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
I think it perfectly sums up everything we feel and think about fear and how to go about rectifying it.
Fear is without a doubt a very real emotion induced by a perceived threat in the outside world.
Fear usually occurs in response to a specific stimulus occurring in the present or to a future situation which we perceive to be a risk to our health, life, security, status or anything else we deem to be valuable.
The first thing we need to accept as parents of special needs kids is that feeling fear is normal. We feel scared as a result of so many reasons – we fear our children will be hurt, we fear they will not be accepted or loved, we fear they will be unhappy or let down by life.
All of these fears seem valid to us because deep down we know there is a chance those things may come to fruition.
There’s a chance our kids may be unaccepted, depressed, confused, or unloved.
I can tell you one thing though, feeling fear about these situations doesn’t make the situation go away.
To the contrary it may end up backfiring on you or even being counter-productive and in the end the thing you feared the most comes to light purely because that was what you chose to spend most of your time and energy focusing on.
Nothing stands in the way of progress and change more than fear.
Fear is the ultimate mind-killer.
Fear is like a prison that keeps you locked in a state of inaction and indecision.
The only way to get over your fears is to accept they exist and move on from it.
Refuse to give fear the power to control your life because if you can overcome your fears, and take action in spite of feeling scared, you can move forward to becoming stronger and wiser within yourself.
Decide today that what you want – maybe its desire for your child to be happy and included – is more important than feeling scared about it not happening.
Let your faith be bigger than your fear because thinking and procrastinating will not help you overcome your fears but ACTIONS will.
Like Susan Jeffers so wisely said: feel the fear and do it anyway.
Allow love guide you in your actions and let your actions be guided by confidence rather than fear. For that is the key to change – simply let go of your fear.
After all the only way around it is through it.
For more information on how you can raise a happy and resilient child with special needs, please feel free to check out my book THEY SAY I’M SPECIAL: 100 TIPS TO RAISE A HAPPY AND RESILIENT CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
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