Coping tips when having a child with special needs

Monique Tait

When it comes to children, I believe every parent needs special skills to cope with today’s fast moving life. The speed of life and its demands get faster, bigger and more all the time! Combine this rat race with a child with special needs, add the demands of a marriage and a family and you have something that is difficult to describe to anyone else.

Our eldest child is 16 years old and suffers from autism. For years we have been making adjustments to our social life, family life and married life. We had to learn to seriously tone down our social life. No more could we just accept all invitations or attend functions. The fact that there were no grandparents close by, made it even more difficult. I would strongly recommend people in our situation to work on building up a support system – either with a cell group, staying close to family, or to join a group of people in the same situation or with similar problems. For every mother I would say: find yourself a best friend with whom you can share your heart‘s desires, where you can cry over lost dreams and with whom you don’t have to wear a mask when things, sometimes, get a little too much to bear.

Our other son still finds it difficult to accept that things don’t work the same in our house as in any other normal household. It is sometimes difficult for him to invite over his friends, knowing that he would have to explain to them why his brother is ‘different’. We try to encourage him to tell new friends about the situation from the start, so that it would not be uncomfortable for him later. A child stays a child though and a teenager is a teenager…

Regarding our marriage, my husband and I have to make sure that we still ‘find’ each other – you can so easily live oblivious of each other when your life gets sucked up by feedback from therapists, organising your child’s care and planning his programme. That is why we have made the rule 10 years ago to make Thursday mornings OUR time (my husband works most evenings so it is difficult to find time then). We try to do something nice on a Thursday – see a movie or go to a tea garden, etc. In addition, we try to break away for a weekend once a year, while visiting Grandpa and Grandma, so that they can look after the children.

The most important coping skill I had to learn, was to allow for tons of humour. I had to learn that being over sensitive would take me nowhere and that we had to laugh about a lot of things that would actually shock other people. For example, my child once told me, for 10 days continually, that I “was the fattest mother that he had ever seen in the whole world!” OKAY!! That is possibly the last words any mother would want to hear!! After my husband spoke to him and told him to apologise, he came to me and said: “Okay, you are the fattest mom in the whole world that I have never seen!!!” I had to accept this apology, tongue in the cheek and make peace with the fact that I would never look like a model to him!! Try not to take everything he (or other people) say, too literally. Remember that other people’s remarks mostly root in a lack of knowledge. Decide that you will either correct them, or just let it go by.

For me the most important thing: Create new dreams concerning your child!!! It does not have to be big dreams, but it will be YOURS! Don’t allow anybody to steal it from you. Hold on to our Heavenly Father and KNOW that this child is more HIS child than yours! Pray constantly for your child and your family.Originally published in the Spring edition of My Child and I, 2014.

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SAVF FAMNET,
41 Hospital Street, Arcadia, 0083
PO BOX 40526, Arcadia, 0007
012 325 3920
erheeder@savf.co.za
084 383 9417

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