Parenting a Child With Special Needs: Your Support Network

Reviewed Aug 23, 2018

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Summary

Reach out to your:

  • Spouse
  • Family and friends
  • Local support group or counselor
  • Child care provider

Raising a child with a disability or chronic illness can be a joyful and rewarding experience—but it also can be a heavy burden on the family. Children with special needs require a great deal of time and attention, as well as financial and emotional support. The stress of raising a child with special needs can challenge your health, marriage and family life, which is why developing a support network to relieve some of these pressures is so important. Try to reach out to these people:

Your spouse

Husbands and wives often hold back their feelings in an effort to be the other’s source of strength. Yet, good marriages thrive when husbands and wives are open and honest with each other—even when feelings may be hard to face. A strong and loving marriage will enrich life for all family members.

Friends and family

Unloading your frustrations, concerns, and other feelings on friends and family can be a great relief. But sometimes people fear that by doing so, they will put loved ones in an awkward position of not knowing what to say. Don’t hesitate to explain what you’re looking for, “I don’t need you to come up with the answers, I just need you to listen.”

During particularly challenging times, turn to friends and family for help around the house or with the kids. Asking grandparents or other family members to occasionally baby-sit provides you the opportunity to get away. Plus, time alone with your special needs child will give extended family a chance to see beyond your child’s disability or illness and appreciate your child’s individuality.

Support groups

People who have walked in your shoes, who can empathize rather than sympathize, are a great comfort. Having to explain your feelings to friends and family can be exhausting, and as such, may keep you from opening up at all. What a great relief it is to simply say, “I’m afraid” or “I don't know what to do” and know that others will understand where you’re coming from. This is the advantage of support groups.

Support group members not only share their feelings, but also offer practical advice, such as information on doctors, therapists or child care providers or navigating through the special education system. Through lively discussions, group members discuss marital and family stress, ways to make everyday living easier and how to deal with problem situations or behaviors. Support groups can be full of humor as parents share anecdotes and situations that may seem inappropriate outside the group.

Ask your child’s doctor or therapist or contact the school or a local parent training and information (PTI) center for parent support groups in your area. You also can find support groups online.

Your child care provider

Periodic or ongoing child care can give you a much needed break from the constant demand of caring for a special needs child. If your child requires specialized care that a relative, friend or responsible babysitter cannot give, consider going through a day care facility or respite care or homecare service.

Counselors

Talk with a professional counselor or member of the clergy if you are having trouble reaching out to others. They can help you make sense of your emotions and provide strategies for building a support network.

Resources

Children’s Disabilities Information
www.childrensdisabilities.info

Center for Parent Information and Resources
www.parentcenterhub.org

Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. Harmony, 2010.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities; The Child with Special Needs by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D, and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. Perseus Books, 1998; Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles & Rewards of Raising a Child with a Disability by Robert A. Naseef, Ph.D. Birch Lane Press, 1997; Raising a Handicapped Child: A Helpful Guide for Parents of the Physically Disabled by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D. Oxford University Press, 2000; Children with Mental Retardation: A Parent’s Guide edited by Romayne Smith. Woodbine House 1993.

Summary

Reach out to your:

  • Spouse
  • Family and friends
  • Local support group or counselor
  • Child care provider

Raising a child with a disability or chronic illness can be a joyful and rewarding experience—but it also can be a heavy burden on the family. Children with special needs require a great deal of time and attention, as well as financial and emotional support. The stress of raising a child with special needs can challenge your health, marriage and family life, which is why developing a support network to relieve some of these pressures is so important. Try to reach out to these people:

Your spouse

Husbands and wives often hold back their feelings in an effort to be the other’s source of strength. Yet, good marriages thrive when husbands and wives are open and honest with each other—even when feelings may be hard to face. A strong and loving marriage will enrich life for all family members.

Friends and family

Unloading your frustrations, concerns, and other feelings on friends and family can be a great relief. But sometimes people fear that by doing so, they will put loved ones in an awkward position of not knowing what to say. Don’t hesitate to explain what you’re looking for, “I don’t need you to come up with the answers, I just need you to listen.”

During particularly challenging times, turn to friends and family for help around the house or with the kids. Asking grandparents or other family members to occasionally baby-sit provides you the opportunity to get away. Plus, time alone with your special needs child will give extended family a chance to see beyond your child’s disability or illness and appreciate your child’s individuality.

Support groups

People who have walked in your shoes, who can empathize rather than sympathize, are a great comfort. Having to explain your feelings to friends and family can be exhausting, and as such, may keep you from opening up at all. What a great relief it is to simply say, “I’m afraid” or “I don't know what to do” and know that others will understand where you’re coming from. This is the advantage of support groups.

Support group members not only share their feelings, but also offer practical advice, such as information on doctors, therapists or child care providers or navigating through the special education system. Through lively discussions, group members discuss marital and family stress, ways to make everyday living easier and how to deal with problem situations or behaviors. Support groups can be full of humor as parents share anecdotes and situations that may seem inappropriate outside the group.

Ask your child’s doctor or therapist or contact the school or a local parent training and information (PTI) center for parent support groups in your area. You also can find support groups online.

Your child care provider

Periodic or ongoing child care can give you a much needed break from the constant demand of caring for a special needs child. If your child requires specialized care that a relative, friend or responsible babysitter cannot give, consider going through a day care facility or respite care or homecare service.

Counselors

Talk with a professional counselor or member of the clergy if you are having trouble reaching out to others. They can help you make sense of your emotions and provide strategies for building a support network.

Resources

Children’s Disabilities Information
www.childrensdisabilities.info

Center for Parent Information and Resources
www.parentcenterhub.org

Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. Harmony, 2010.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities; The Child with Special Needs by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D, and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. Perseus Books, 1998; Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles & Rewards of Raising a Child with a Disability by Robert A. Naseef, Ph.D. Birch Lane Press, 1997; Raising a Handicapped Child: A Helpful Guide for Parents of the Physically Disabled by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D. Oxford University Press, 2000; Children with Mental Retardation: A Parent’s Guide edited by Romayne Smith. Woodbine House 1993.

Summary

Reach out to your:

  • Spouse
  • Family and friends
  • Local support group or counselor
  • Child care provider

Raising a child with a disability or chronic illness can be a joyful and rewarding experience—but it also can be a heavy burden on the family. Children with special needs require a great deal of time and attention, as well as financial and emotional support. The stress of raising a child with special needs can challenge your health, marriage and family life, which is why developing a support network to relieve some of these pressures is so important. Try to reach out to these people:

Your spouse

Husbands and wives often hold back their feelings in an effort to be the other’s source of strength. Yet, good marriages thrive when husbands and wives are open and honest with each other—even when feelings may be hard to face. A strong and loving marriage will enrich life for all family members.

Friends and family

Unloading your frustrations, concerns, and other feelings on friends and family can be a great relief. But sometimes people fear that by doing so, they will put loved ones in an awkward position of not knowing what to say. Don’t hesitate to explain what you’re looking for, “I don’t need you to come up with the answers, I just need you to listen.”

During particularly challenging times, turn to friends and family for help around the house or with the kids. Asking grandparents or other family members to occasionally baby-sit provides you the opportunity to get away. Plus, time alone with your special needs child will give extended family a chance to see beyond your child’s disability or illness and appreciate your child’s individuality.

Support groups

People who have walked in your shoes, who can empathize rather than sympathize, are a great comfort. Having to explain your feelings to friends and family can be exhausting, and as such, may keep you from opening up at all. What a great relief it is to simply say, “I’m afraid” or “I don't know what to do” and know that others will understand where you’re coming from. This is the advantage of support groups.

Support group members not only share their feelings, but also offer practical advice, such as information on doctors, therapists or child care providers or navigating through the special education system. Through lively discussions, group members discuss marital and family stress, ways to make everyday living easier and how to deal with problem situations or behaviors. Support groups can be full of humor as parents share anecdotes and situations that may seem inappropriate outside the group.

Ask your child’s doctor or therapist or contact the school or a local parent training and information (PTI) center for parent support groups in your area. You also can find support groups online.

Your child care provider

Periodic or ongoing child care can give you a much needed break from the constant demand of caring for a special needs child. If your child requires specialized care that a relative, friend or responsible babysitter cannot give, consider going through a day care facility or respite care or homecare service.

Counselors

Talk with a professional counselor or member of the clergy if you are having trouble reaching out to others. They can help you make sense of your emotions and provide strategies for building a support network.

Resources

Children’s Disabilities Information
www.childrensdisabilities.info

Center for Parent Information and Resources
www.parentcenterhub.org

Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. Harmony, 2010.

By Christine P. Martin
Source: National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities; The Child with Special Needs by Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D, and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. Perseus Books, 1998; Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles & Rewards of Raising a Child with a Disability by Robert A. Naseef, Ph.D. Birch Lane Press, 1997; Raising a Handicapped Child: A Helpful Guide for Parents of the Physically Disabled by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D. Oxford University Press, 2000; Children with Mental Retardation: A Parent’s Guide edited by Romayne Smith. Woodbine House 1993.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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