Raising a child with special needs is a roller coaster of emotions, experiences, and memories. Whether you have a million doctors appointments to contend with, behavioral issues that make non-disabled children look passive, or schools that you must fight at every turn, you’re an amazing dad. Always remember that. Here are eight truths that you, and many other dads of special needs children, may be able to relate to.
#1 You Are Never Alone
Though other special needs children may not have the exact same symptoms as your child, there are many children and adults with similar difficulties. If your child has multiple disabilities you can find support groups filled with parents who may have similar stories as you. With tales of their children ranging from an obsessive need to sharpen pencils to opening and closing doors a hundred times to their first word, you and these parents can laugh at the quirky stories that can only come from raising a special needs child. Face to face and online groups are available at many different times for your convenience.
#2 Care For Yourself
Being a special needs dad, you may be placed in the position to care for others, often. Whether this is your child, significant other, or various relatives, there are many people needing your support. It is very important to not forget your own self-care. When available, ask friends or family members to bring a home-cooked meal, go to a sports bar, or see a favored team. Take a break. Do whatever you enjoy while someone trustworthy watches your child. Caring for yourself is essential to staying healthy. You are a person who deserves some time to enjoy whatever makes you happy.
#3 You’re Not Perfect
Like every other human on this planet, you’re not perfect. Each and every one of us makes mistakes. If you missed an appointment, for whatever reason, it’s all right. You are still a great dad. Rather than incriminating yourself for a crime you didn’t commit, keep moving forward. Try to think of the situation differently and shift the blame from yourself. Thinking poorly of yourself won’t change the situation, so keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other.
#4 You Are Definitely A Superhero
Each day you manage scenarios that would seem impossible to parents of non-disabled children. Whether these include horrific medical procedures, heartbreaking social situations, or screaming tantrums that make non-disabled children’s sound like a whisper, you handle these situations in stride. Usually. Your hope is never-ending as you cheer your child on so they are confident enough in themselves to do things many people said they couldn’t. You are well aware naysayers exist, but you will not be one of them. While you may not be able to swing from a human-sized spiderweb, there should be a feature-length movie about you.
#5 Spend Time Just Enjoying Your Child
While your schedule may be packed, just add one more line to that long list of to-dos. Play with my child. Rather than leading to stress, this to-do will relax you and your child. Laugh, play, and be as silly as you can possibly be. Read to your child, snuggle with them, and listen to or make up wild stories. Make amazing memories.
#6 Decisions Will Be Tough
While this header is an understatement, it is true. You must make decisions that hurt you, lead to internet researching marathons, and make you doubt everything you were sure you knew. Know that you are doing your best with these agonizing decisions. Talk about your plans with others and once you make the decision, try your best to not rethink it.
#7 You Will Get Things Right, Sometimes
And other times you won’t. You aren’t clairvoyant, so you may not get everything right. Many of the choices regarding your child’s health care don’t have a right answer but are a series of choices that have two options—hard and harder. Through extensive research, sleepless nights, and consultations with others, you will make the best choice available to you at the time. The outcome is a mystery and you have no control over the result. You will always make the best decision on your child’s behalf. Read as much as you can and stay strong.
#8 Forgive Yourself Every day
Common to special needs parents is the feeling that you have not done enough. While you may mess things up at times despite your most fervent wish not to, you are the best parent for your child. Every day you make choices that are difficult with no guarantee the outcome will be positive, but you do it anyway because you love your child and only want the best for him/her. Torturing yourself will not help in your decision making or your feelings about yourself. Forgive yourself and remember that, like everyone else, you can only make decisions in the present with the knowledge you have right now.
Though sometimes you may not feel this is true, you are a fantastic dad. You love unconditionally and celebrate each accomplishment of your child. Hard decisions are both your present and your future, but you will make the ones that have the highest chance of benefiting your child. Take each day one at a time and spend some days enjoying what you love. Start new hobbies, cry some, and laugh a lot. You have a beautiful child, life, and resolve that would make even the most self-disciplined person blink twice. No matter what the future holds, you are a great dad, today.