Parenting is one of life’s hardest tasks. Essentially an unpaid full-time job, parenting tends to the care of children who will carry the generations to come. By President Bill Clinton’s authority, every fourth Sunday of July is known as National Parents’ Day, a day to commemorate the hard work of parents across the globe and their unparalleled bond with their children. A special demographic within parenting is parents of children with special needs. Together, these parents tackle daily problems head-on to produce the best opportunities and care for their children. With July 24 near the corner, let us take some time to understand how parents of children with special needs struggle in life and some advice they can take to heart:
Emotional impacts. Parenting comes with a huge number of responsibilities, and having a child with special needs adds to the difficulty. Parents feel guilty about their child having a certain disability despite the fact that it is beyond their control. They fear that their disability would have a devastating impact on their child’s life, such as a child’s ability to make social connections or do well in school. Other parents also feel that they lost their imagined experience of being a parent because of their child’s disability. Some will feel jealous or resent other families who have “normal” children.
Financial burden. Caring for children is costly. Parents have to concern themselves with paying bills on time, finding food for the table, and whatnot. With a disability in the family, more essential spendings are added: treatments, interventions, etc. This easily stresses parents because it makes prioritization difficult.
Familial conflict. It is always good news to hear of a new family member. However, life can go as unplanned. There are some family members who feel disappointment or sadness when they hear that a new relative has a disability. Such attitudes should be banished for the sake of the child and the family as well.
These struggles are unavoidable but manageable. The key to surmounting them is to acknowledge their existence and be proactive about solving them. Here are three pieces of advice for parents on supporting their children with special needs.
Learn about your child’s special needs. It can be very overwhelming, but ground yourself and approach it calmly. Try to understand the different parts of your child’s disability. What are the risk factors for my child? In what ways can this disability affect my child? You may not have immediate help from the start, so it is best to familiarize yourself with the disability your child has. In that way, you can formulate your parenting style that best meets your child’s special needs. You can also reach out to your community and find resources such as organizations. These entities focus on a specific goal, and if they help with children with special needs, you can communicate with them.
Keep a positive attitude. Children tend to emulate everything about you because they see you as their role model. Inspire them to believe in themselves and that their disability is not their fault. Foster an environment that tells them that life’s challenges are just mini speedbumps. Another way to keep a positive attitude is to understand what it is like to be in your child’s shoes. Try to get a gist of what it means to inherently not be able to do certain things. Doing all of these can help you create a house of love for your child to grow in.
Remind yourself and your child that disabilities do not define your child. A child’s disability is only a fraction of their identity. Their disability may hinder them from performing a certain function, but they will excel in other functions.
Parents of children with disabilities can approach the CNMI Council on Developmental Disabilities. Their mission is to “bring about necessary systemic change in order to promote the lives of persons with developmental disabilities.” You can contact them by calling them at (670) 664-7000/1 or by visiting their location on Capital Hill.
Aldwin Batusin (Correspondent)