Parenting a child with special needs is certainly a joyful, busy and rewarding job but sometimes it cannot be done alone. No two children are alike, and you can’t expect each day to follow a blueprint or each milestone to fall into place like bricks in a path. Your child and their needs are unique, but you also have to remember that you and your approach them are unique as well.
Because specific advice doesn’t always apply to every case, we’ve put together 5 of the best tips that parents of special needs kids may sometimes forget. It is easy to get deep in the weeds looking for extremely detailed strategies regarding our exact situation that we sometimes forget that each situation requires learning that only experience can provide. These tips will help you turn your experience into strategies so you and your children with special needs can live your best lives.
1 – Find support networks
Raising children requires a village, and that’s doubly-certain for the challenges of raising a child with special needs. Even if you have a partner, the time constraints, the late nights and early mornings and the extra time needed to prepare to go anywhere can feel insurmountable alone. Find a support network that can help take off some of the stress.
There are plenty of online support groups, but you can likely find a local group as well. Studies suggest just having someone to chat with who knows what you’re going through can relieve stress and give you perspective. You can also find support networks through local special needs therapy centers, who may organize meetings of parents in similar situations.
2 – Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Self-care is often boiled down into memes about spa days and expensive wines, but the fact is that without proper self-care, you can’t help anyone else. In this case, by self care we mean:
- Getting enough rest
- Eating a healthy, nutritious diet
- Meditation, or at least calmness and space to breath and decompress
Self care is more about making sure your emotional, psychological and health needs are met so you can deal with the rigors of a special needs child. Do not feel guilty about enjoying yourself, even if it’s something as simple as reading a book alone.
3 – Celebrate little victories
Little victories make up our lives, even though we like to pretend otherwise. It might not be about the game-winning catch, but all the successes before that, or the day your child writes their name for the first time without help. Even a day without a meltdown, or an unexpected hug. These are things that you should really celebrate, because they mean you’re winning.
4 – Don’t forget to laugh
One difficulty with taking advice about coping with a special needs child is that a lot of it is dolled out by people who have different situations. Some might have a stronger support system or simply different “special needs”. It’s hard to take advice from a Pinterest mom’s pithy memes about “wine time” when you’re wading through housework with a frustrated toddler.
If an emotion of frustration or anger arises, take a breath and a step back and ask yourself if it’s worth that emotion. If your child makes a mess, just laugh and jump into the thick of it with them; there’s time to clean up afterwards.
5 – Ask teachers and therapists for at-home tips
If experience breeds winning strategies, then your teachers and peers are your best reference point. Academics and books are good for a broad view of how to deal with a special needs child, but people in the thick of teaching and living that life have the best advice. Don’t be afraid to reach out; you may find your best support system comes from asking for tips.
You’re not alone
A lot of the best tips for parenting a child with special needs boil down to taking care of yourself. If you’re a burned out, stressed husk of a person, you won’t be able to cope.
- Find a support system and ask for help
- Take care of your health, your body, mind and emotions through exercise, sleep and counseling
- Take pride in each step forward, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time
- Laugh, especially when your first instinct is to crawl into a ball and cry
- Ask your therapists, teachers and friends with special needs experience for their pearls of wisdom
Sometimes it takes expert help to get your footing and move towards a strategy for you and your special needs child. Infinite Therapy Solutions offers the skills of 40 years combined training in helping special needs families flourish, with certifications in physical, occupational and speech therapies. A simple consultation is all it takes to get expert help in the Hudson County area for you and your special needs child.