Parents of kids with special needs tend to experience more stressful situations than typical parents. As a mother to two children who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, I’ve encountered all sorts of isolation and stress while raising them. That’s why I know how important it is to be informed and to anticipate some of the challenges you may face, and then cope in a way that helps you to stay balanced and healthy in order to be the best parent you can be, regardless of your child’s disability.
COMMON SOURCES OF STRESS
- Financial issues: Most families that include children with special needs face challenges in adapting to the special care of the individual with the disability. Suddenly, responsibilities grow and concern for future finances takes a back seat, especially if one spouse has to quit work to care for the child. Later, the future becomes a real concern as the child may not be able to gain full independence and finances will be strained.
- Health insurance: Parents of children with special needs are often challenged to cover their kid’s medical expenses. Many times a middle class family will not qualify for Medicaid, even though they may be unable to cover private insurance costs and deductibles. This situation leads to families making tough decisions, like reducing their income, if only for the goal of qualifying for governmental services that assure medical and therapeutic services for the child.
- New responsibilities: Therapies, medical appointments, follow-up calls and more, are really hard to keep up with sometimes. Caregivers feel the stress, and they may be unable to find the time and the resources to meet the needs of their child without affecting their bonds with other family members or their performance on the job.
The most typical stress-related reaction is isolation. Often families feel they don’t have enough energy to meet their child’s care needs and still nurture friendships or seek out social engagements. It sometimes seems easier to just quietly retreat from a social life in an effort to protect their privacy and maintain a sense of normalcy.
BEAT THE STRESS & ISOLATION
Some changes are unavoidable and painful, but they require adjustments to keep on going. Think of changes as opportunities for growth that will help you find the right balance for your family. It’s a process, and here are some ways to get through it:
- Create and follow a schedule. In the most complicated situations, your day planner will be your life saver. Having your priorities in writing is always the best reminder that everything can be achieved. If you find space in your planner to write it down, you’ll surely find the space in your day to make it happen.
- Accept help from others. Often after taking a walk or a nap your life can look a lot better. Trust friends and family members. Talk to them, be sincere and take their help. If you don´t have family or friends around, look for resources in your community. Join a church or a support group.
- Train your family to work as a team. Share responsibilities with them. Take turns! Most importantly, don’t play supermom. You’re human and you need to keep that in mind at all times.
Stress takes over when we feel lost and afraid or if we don’t have a handle on a situation. That’s why the most important resources for handling stress are organization, knowledge, rest and faith. Have faith in your child, your family, and yourself. Armed with that faith, you can face the most challenging of obstacles.