Being a parent is stressful in any family. When you have a special needs child, stress levels can go even higher.
You find yourself juggling with more than getting the kids to soccer practise after school, meeting with teachers on a limited basis and breaking up occasional sibling spats. A special needs child brings a whole new set of responsibilities.
Along with those responsibilities come added stressors you may not be equipped to cope with. Here are some of the major causes of stress and what you can do to relieve the pressure.
If every minute of your day is taken up with the care of your disabled child, it’s no wonder you’re stressed. There are resources available to you when you have a special needs child. In Dubai, the Sanjay Shah Autism Rocks Support Centre offers a host of support services for parents. In the U.K., the Council for Disabled Children website features a list of resources, guidance and toolkits to assist parents. Nearly every community has some type of assistance available to parents of special needs children.
Guilt is the Worst
A parent of a special-needs child runs the gamut of emotions, but guilt is most likely at the top of the list. Guilt over the fact that you have a child with special needs, guilt over not having time to spend with your partner, guilt over feelings of neglect towards your other children, guilt and worry about whether or not you’re doing everything you can for your special needs child—the list goes on.
The problem is that guilt is a destructive emotion and prevents you from moving forward. If you find yourself with overwhelming feelings of guilt, seek a professional’s help. You’ll be a stronger parent and better equipped to handle stressors when you put that unwarranted guilt to rest.
Worry About Your Partner and Other Children
Another source of stress when you have a special needs child is the worry about the effects on your partner and the other children in the household. You no longer have time to spend alone with your partner; the other children aren’t getting the nurturing they need. The family’s activities seem to revolve around your special needs child and no one else’s needs are being met. You used to have a life. Now you have a duty.
What You Can Do
A large part of the stress factor when you have a special needs child comes from feeling like you don’t have control anymore. But, you can regain control and make positive changes in your life and that of your family. Here’s how:
- Maintain a Regular Routine: Daily routines, such as regular bed and bath times, meal times and wake up times as well as weekly routines for chores and other activities ensure the family works together. The special needs child should be included in all of the family routines according to his or her ability. Shared routines go beyond simply getting things done, they also build a sense of cohesion within the family.
- Involve Everyone in Family Decisions: Everyone needs a chance to be heard. Involve everyone in family decisions in most areas. That’s not to say you hold a vote and the majority wins. But each member of the family, the special needs child included, needs to have a voice.
- Have Some Fun: Ask everyone in the family to make a list of activities they enjoy. Lists might include big items (such as a trip to a theme park) or activities that can be done in the backyard (like playing catch). Make sure everyone gets to do something they enjoy as often as possible.
- Nurture Your Other Children: If you can include your special needs child in most activities, fine. If not, find a caregiver for your special needs child and spend time doing what your other children love from time to time.
- Spend Time With Your Partner: Get away with your partner. Maintaining a close bond with your partner is essential not just for your relationship, but for everyone involved.