Self-Care Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children
written by Alicia Muñoz, LPC, posted on GoodTherapy.org
Being the parent of a child with a disability carries with it unique responsibilities, stressors, and rewards. It requires an extra dose of emotional resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness. Powered by the same (or an even stronger) drive to nurture, protect, and empower their children as parents of kids perceived as normatively abled, parents of children with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum issues, spina bifida, or Down syndrome often face profound social and systemic prejudices. These “invisible” obstacles can be all the more agonizing when they are unacknowledged.
The Global Partnership for Education notes “children with disabilities remain the most excluded group [when it comes to educational opportunities], discriminated not only because of their disability but also because of lack of understanding and knowledge about its causes, implications, and stigma.” Even parents seeking to support their child with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) or physical conditions such as blindness or mobility issues can find themselves overwhelmed by the challenges of getting proper testing or access to a restroom or play space. When a child’s disability dovetails with preexisting societal or cultural prejudices related to gender, race, religious affiliation, or sexual identity, the challenges intensify, with an impact on parents that peers, colleagues, and others may not fully comprehend or appreciate.
As parents of children with disabilities proactively seek information and support and advocate for their children, they may discover frustrating limitations that reinforce a sense of isolation or exclusion and stoke emotions such as grief or anger. As a result of these and other factors, parents seeking support for their special needs children have special needs of their own when it comes to self-care.