Parenting is difficult, challenging, and extremely rewarding at the best of times. Parenting children with special needs – whether in the form of a mental or physical disability – is all these feelings amplified.
It can feel at times like you have nowhere to turn. Luckily, there are a whole host of great resources out there that offer great tips for helping you be the best parent you can. Here, we’ve complied 5 tips from some of the biggest UK authorities to make parenting special needs children that little bit easier.
1. Visit activity groups
Parents of disabled children should take full advantage of local activity groups, according to Core Assets Fostering. They say:
“Activity groups are a place for disabled children and young people to meet new people, make friends, gain independence and (most important of all) they’re a place for fun.”
It is hugely important for you and your children that you feel part of a community. School can be a tough place for your kids, and specialist groups and clubs can help give your kids a sense of belonging they deserve. More than anything, this can help you as a parent as they grow in confidence and have fun.
2. Get a dog
According to research carried about by the charity, Scope, owning a dog can transform a disabled child’s life. Brining a pet into your home is great for all children, but can become a real friend for those with physical and mental disabilities. They say:
“Many people believe that having a pet reduces stress, can help a child learn responsibility, improve social skills and reduce feelings of isolation. Research conducted with the Autistic Society has shown that dogs can calm and comfort children or help them develop the confidence to try new tasks”
3. Take time to work on your relationship
According to Action for Children:
“Parents are most likely to split up and families break down during the first year after a child is born. Post-natal depression, a child’s disability or challenging behaviour puts added pressure on families. External factors can bring additional stress too like housing problems and unemployment.”
That means that you should be sure to take time out and work on your relationship with your partner. When possible, have a night out on your own and enjoy each other’s company. It will do you and your child the world of good.
4. Don’t worry, everything is normal
It can be easy to think that the parenting problems you are experiencing are unique to you. However, you should rest assured that plenty of other parents are experiencing the same issues as you are.
The NHS says:
“Caring for a disabled child can make your daily parenting duties, such as feeding, toilet training and getting them to sleep, more challenging. It might take longer for your child to be able to feed themselves, but developing the skills to do so can also help them in other ways, such as with speech and language development, and co-ordination.”
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There is no shame in asking for help.
Whether you need emotional or financial support for any reason, there is always someone out there that can give you the guidance you need. GOV.uk offers professional help, guidance, and financial support for parents of disabled children.
This is sometimes the hardest thing for parents to admit to; but it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. Sometimes, you just need a little reassurance that you’re doing the right thing and that’s what your local authority can provide.
Parenting special needs children is always going to be challenging, but it can be rewarding too. By taking the advice of these five experts, you will be able to enjoy your little ones childhood without any added stress.
Alan Grainger writes for Core Assets Fostering, a leading children’s services organization in the UK.
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