14 Things Every Special Needs Parent Needs to Hear

Tuesday, 25 January, 2022 - 4:00 pm

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All of our Friendship Circle parents are amazing. Being a parent of a child or teen with special needs is extremely challenging and requires patience, sacrifice, and humility. Our FC parents tackle these challenges with such grace and sometimes they forget how incredible they are. That’s why we’ve created a list of things that every special needs parent needs to hear. 


#1. You are not alone 

There probably will not be another parent that has a child with the exact same diagnosis as yours. However, we are sure there are parents experiencing similar challenges. So, make sure to find those parents. Look on Facebook or join support groups. Just make sure to create a network of people who can support you and relate to some of the challenges you are going through. 


#2. You’re not perfect - and that’s okay!

No one is perfect. We’re all going to make mistakes and we can either choose to wallow in our self pity or we can pick ourselves up and move on. We tend to get down on ourselves when we make a mistake, but it;s important for us to shift our thinking. Maybe there was a reason you mixed up the day of that doctor’s appointment for your child. There’s nothing you can do to change the situation, so forget about it and focus on something else. 


#3. You deserve to be cared for too

We can’t say this enough, but you are important too. Special needs parents often neglect to take care of themselves because they are so busy trying to take care of their child. Nevertheless, you have to carve out some time for yourself to relax, unwind, and enjoy things that you like. Read a book, get a massage, see some friends. Whatever makes you feel special, go out and do it!


#4. Therapy is play and play is therapy

Therapy and play go hand in hand for children and teens with special needs. The best therapists find ways to make challenging activities fun such as making a certain exercise like a game that your child loves to play. On the other hand, playing is therapeutic. Having your child involved in activities like joining a special needs sports league, learning how to horseback ride, or taking swim lessons is not only fun but helps them learn and get stronger. 


#5. Make time to enjoy your kids

Special needs parents are extremely busy and tend to overbook themselves. While these therapy visits and doctor’s appointments are important, it’s also important to carve out time to have some fun with your child. Read them a story, have a movie night, or build a fort with them. Having that balance between work and play is essential. 


#6. You won’t always get it right 

Sometimes the choices special needs parents have to make are all about trial and error. You may make a decision that wasn’t the right one for your child and that’s ok! All of this is a learning process and sometimes it’s good to remember that there might not be a “right” answer. Just listen to your child and go from there. 


#7. Parenting a child with special needs is like running a marathon

This is a good metaphor for any parent who needs a little encouragement from time to time. None of us are trying to “win” the marathon so to speak. The only important thing is that we finish the race. That being said, during a marathon in order to finish the race you will need to take some breaks to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. The same goes for parenting. We will need to take breaks to focus on ourselves and unwind from the day because if we don’t we’ll just get burnt out. 


#8. Don’t lose yourself 

Being a parent of a child or teen with special needs is part of your identity but it shouldn’t make up your entire identity. If you focus all of your energy and resources on your special needs child, then you will lose yourself. So make sure to keep doing things that make you feel good and fulfilled. 


#9. Keep your sense of humor 

Sometimes people say insensitive things that get under our skin. However, instead of getting frustrated and overly sensitive, we have to take a step back and remember not to take it personally. In those situations, laughter really is the best medicine and it will keep us sane even during tough times. 


#10. Celebrate the little things

In life we tend to get caught up in the big moments: your first house, the birth of your first child, your child going to preschool. These moments are important, however don’t let them overshadow the amazing little things that are happening everyday. What about if your child had a great therapy session, or they said a new sentence, or they gave you a hug. Celebrate these milestones with your child and the ones you love. 


#11. Don’t let typical parents get you down

It can be hard to hear when parents talk about their child taking their first steps when your child is 6 months older and hasn’t done that yet. However, remember that your child is going at their own pace and that they have already accomplished many things. Also parents of a typical child are allowed to be excited about their child’s accomplishments. Everyone is just excited to talk about their kids. 


#12. Don’t compare

This is hard to do, but try to remember that kids, typical or atypical, will grow and develop at their own pace. Your child is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re worried about your child not hitting a milestone, consult with your doctor and see what they have to say.  


#13. Make time for your significant other

We’ve already talked about making time for yourself, but it’s also important to spend quality time with your significant other. Make sure to have that quality time away from your kids. So get out of the house and plan a fun date night for just the two of you. 


#14. Trust your instincts 

No matter how many years your therapists and doctors have been working with your special needs child, you know them the best. If you don’t feel like you’re being heard or that your child’s needs are being met, speak up or get a second opinion. Your instincts are there for a reason. 


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