Often times when people are going through a difficult time in life the common thought is that we’ll either get through it, or it will become easier. Unfortunately, when it comes to special needs parenting, that just isn’t the case. Not only does it not get easier, I would argue that it just gets harder as time goes by.
Acceptance Helps…sort of
When the diagnosis initially comes, there is the period of grief we need to go through. In time we come to accept the diagnosis which can help our emotional and mental state of mind. Acceptance of the diagnosis can help, and make special needs parenting easier. However, the acceptance goes in cycles.
While we accept the diagnosis and the new reality for our family, we are still reminded by all the milestones our children don’t reach. Even though we’ve accepted the diagnosis, the wounds can often be reopened.
Personally, this happens when I see babies sitting up on their own, or taking their first steps. We have had years of physical therapy, countless surgeries, treatments and interventions. Ladybug is still not doing these things, which keeps the sting of the diagnosis fresh.
So while acceptance of the diagnosis can help us move forward, it only makes parenting a special needs child easier for a short period of time.
Our Children Are Getting Bigger
There is only one thing our special needs children have in common with all other kids. They are growing, and they grow fast. The problem arises when our children’s independence doesn’t grow with them.
Most children gain independence as they grow. They start to dress themselves, climb in and out of bed, brush their teeth, bath themselves and so on. Our special needs children however may never accomplish these basic skills to give them independence.
So the problem we face as special needs parents is that our children are getting bigger, but their level of needs remains high. This of course means that as we go down this special needs journey, the difficulties associated with caring for them increases.
Ladybug turns 8 this week. She still depends on us for everything. Every lift, transfer, shower, change of clothes, meal, drink, even playing with toys needs our assistance. (think nursing only we don’t get to go home at the end of the shift) She is growing and these tasks are getting more difficult with her growth. I fear the day we will no longer be able to be her caregiver.
So you see special needs parenting doesn’t get easier in time. Even if we’ve accepted this reality, it doesn’t get easier.
We Are Getting Older
Parenting special needs children is draining. Like incredibly draining. This life will place demands on you in ways you never dreamed. The demands are both physical and emotional.
Just like our children are growing, we are also aging. Our physical abilities to care for our children decrease in time. Our kids get bigger, we get older. Their needs increase, while our ability to provide care decreases. You can see the problem this poses.
My husband and I have both had back problems, and other physical ailments that have required chiropractors and lots of ice. (yes we take precautions and do proper lifting techniques)
I would argue that for many special needs parents, we are aging at a faster than normal rate. This is of course due to the physical toll we go through simply caring for our children.
I was actually discussing this with a friend the other day. This friend thought I was in my mid forties, I’m only 34. See my point?
No, Special Needs Parenting Doesn’t Get Easier
Add these three points together and it’s pretty easy to see that special needs parenting doesn’t get easier with time. Even if we have the best and most positive outlook on life, the truth is that this isn’t easy. It will get more difficult with each passing year.
My advice to special needs parents is to find respite and practice self care. I know it’s difficult to make yourself a priority and not feel guilty about it, but it needs to be done. Self care is NOT an option. Trust me on this, I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy learning this lesson the hard way.
If you’re not a special needs parent but reading this to better understand, thank you. You are a true friend. We really value you taking the time to try to wrap your head around this special needs parenting life we live. If you’re wondering what you can do to help, please ask. Special needs parenting really does take a village.
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