Being the parent of a special needs child can be very challenging. Being a parent to any child requires plenty of hard work, but when your child has special needs, it takes things to a whole other level. Not only do your child’s special needs require additional care, but there is also an extra emotional toll that is present.
Parents typically have certain dreams for their children. All parents have to accept that their child isn’t going to live all of the dreams they might have for them. The likelihood of any child becoming a professional athlete is rather low. However, more fundamental dreams, like your child being able to ride their bike with their friends, are a bit more difficult to cope with, when you realize that will never happen for your child.
To make things simple, we’ll refer to working parents as dads for this article and primary caregivers as mums since that is the most common situation. So whether your situation matches or you have a working mom and stay at home dad, or if it is a same-sex relationship or any other family dynamic. Just remember that when using dad, we are referring to a parent who is not their child’s primary caregiver.
Special need kids are not a strain on the family
Having a special needs child can be difficult on the whole family, and the relationships between all of the different members. Other fully-abled children often feel neglected in these situations as the special needs child requires more of their parents’ time and attention. Marriages can also suffer as many couples forget to make time for each other.
Fathers of special needs children often find themselves feeling like outsiders. Mothers of special needs children spend most of their days with their children and form a very strong bond, while dads struggle to find their place. They hurt just as much as their spouse but feel a bit helpless when it comes to feeling like they are there for their family.
There is also often a financial strain. A special needs child is likely going to require many additional expenses, and the cost can be difficult for a family. Fortunately, in many cases, there are opportunities for extra financial assistance. When your child’s special needs result from an injury at birth, you may have legal grounds for a lawsuit. Depending on your situation, birth injury claims may be supported by your child’s disability.
There are many support systems out there for parents of special needs, but many focus more on the mothers than they do on the fathers. Here are some important things for parents of special needs kids to remember so that working parents can realize just how important their role really is in the family dynamic.
Have dad days
One of the best ways to empower dads of special needs children is to ensure that they have a special relationship with their child that is all their own. It may be difficult for moms to step away when they spend most of their time with their children. However, it can be important to let dads have a day or a few hours each weekend of one on one time with their special needs child so that they can have their own special relationship.
Not only do father and child get to have special bonding time, but fathers who feel a bit helpless overall with their child’s situation can have the opportunity to feel completely needed. This also gives mums a chance to have more one on one time with any other children they have, or simply get some time to themselves, which is incredibly important as well.
It is OK to be upset
Many parents of special needs children feel like they are not allowed to be angry about the situation. While moms often have a stronger support system that gives them permission to be upset, dads aren’t always in the same boat. Dads tend to feel like they have to push down all of their negative feelings because they are supposed to love their child for how they are and not wish their special needs away.
It’s important that dads realize that the two things are not mutually exclusive. You can love your child profoundly and still be angry that they face the added challenges that they do. Being upset about the situation does not diminish your love for your child at all.
Make time for your marriage
Parents of special needs children need support. The best support available will typically come from your spouse. You will take turns picking each other up when you are down. It’s important not to let this relationship get lost inside your care of your child. For any parents, it can be difficult to find time just for the two of you. However, it is important to do so from time to time.
Rely on your extended support system to give you some alone time.
Don’t lose track of other loved ones
It’s crucial to take time for your other relationships as well. This is especially true of any other children you have, as they are likely to often feel on the outside just like you. It’s also important to maintain relationships with your other friends and family too. I’m sure you have heard the saying about it taking a village to raise a child well that goes doubly for a child with special needs.
Talk to others in your same situation
Moms of special needs kids typically find others in the same situation through playgroups for special needs children and in the waiting rooms of doctor’s and therapist’s offices. Dads tend not to get as many opportunities to share with others in their same situation.
Get together with families that mums meet so that you can talk to someone in your same situation and not feel so isolated. You can also find support groups and online communities to better connect. Having a child with a disability should not be an isolating experience.
Katherine Webre is a passionate writer with years of experience in legal. She has dedicated her career to represent the most vulnerable among us, children who have suffered severe injustice.