Parenting Children with Additional Needs

Every parent is different. But after a diagnosis of disability or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is very common for parents to feel overwhelmed, shocked, disbelieving, numb, worried or a combination of all these things.

Once parents have a diagnosis, that gives them some idea of what the future may hold. There is no template saying if your child has this diagnosis, this will be the outcome, or this will be what your child is life is going to be like. It is a bit like when any child is born; you make assumptions about where the child is going to be in 10, 20 years’ time, which you do not really think about a lot.

Parents will often start worrying about what is going to happen in 20 years’ time, whereas parents who do not have a child with a disability just assume it will be fine. It can be very frustrating or stressful, for the parents to plan their kid is entire life when they are only 18 months or six months, or two days old.

When parents get a diagnosis of additional needs, it is normal to have a range of feelings, including guilt, blame, fear, sadness and relief. A range of feelings is normal, there is no ‘right’ way to feel. Acknowledging your emotions is a healthy thing to do. Take time to just enjoy life with your child, without focusing on his additional needs.

As you get used to the situation, you might feel sad, especially when you think about your disappointed hopes and dreams for your child and yourselves. There can be feelings of blame, directed towards yourselves and other people, and fear about the future. It is important that you go through the process of emotions.

Most parents and families eventually felt OK about their child’s additional needs. They have positive feelings like love, joy, acceptance and satisfaction, and they make alternative plans and having new dreams for their children.

These tips might help you manage your feelings as you get used to your situation:

  • Accept your feelings, whatever they are, do not push them away.
  • Give yourself time. Negative feelings would not stay forever, but they can come back from time to time.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • When you are ready, talk to people close to you, particularly your partner, about how you are feeling.
  • Get to know other parents who are in similar situations. It can help to talk to people who understand what it is like to have a child with additional needs.
  • Enjoy time with your child.
  • Try to avoid comparing your child with other children. Every child is an individual.
  • Celebrate successes and milestones, yours and your child’s and focus on positives and progress. There will be lots of reasons to feel positive.
  • Take time to just enjoy life with your child, without focusing on his additional needs. With time, you will get better at doing this.