Special Needs Parents Need Friends by Ellen Stumbo

Did you know that many parents of kids with special needs feel lonely?

Because of their children’s needs, some special needs parents feel isolated. That birthday party everyone is invited to? Maybe the child has significant sensory processing issues and cannot handle the noise or large crowds. That Bible study at church that takes place during the children’s  program? The special needs mom needs to stay with her child because there isn’t a trained volunteer to help with her child’s needs. That playdate at the park where the moms chatter while the kids play?  Not gonna’ happen! Most likely the child needs help to climb on the special equipment, and there goes the adult interaction.

Parenting a child with special needs can be exhausting. Sometimes, it is easier to stay home. The thing is, special needs parents need friends. They need someone to talk to and someone to laugh with. God created us to be in relationships, we are not meant to do life alone.

What can you do to reach out to a special needs parent?

First, get to know her family and her child with special needs. Can you babysit for an hour or two so mom and dad can go out on a date? Maybe a late-night-date after the kids go to bed?

Initiate the relationship. You can ask, “I would love to get together with you, is there a time or day that works for you?”

Plan playdates around the abilities of the kids with special needs. Maybe a playdate at a park won’t work, but the special needs parent might have some suggestions for fun activities that work for her family.

Call. Just pick up the phone and call. It is amazing how something so simple makes such a big difference. Let your friend know that you are available to talk. And you don’t have to talk about special needs! Just chat about the weather, about the conversation you had with your brother, or about the embarrassing situation you had at the store. Just be a friend and reach out.

ellenstumboEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.

Be a Father by Carey Casey

In ParentLife this month, I wrote about dads who deserve to be honored, and the idea of making “sacrifices” for our children. It occurs to me that another great point to make is that there are dads out there who pretty much define that word “sacrifice.” So I want to add a salute to dads who are committed to meeting the needs of their kids—no matter what.

This is expressed by dads in many different challenging situations, but I have one group in mind specifically.

Some years ago, my bride Melanie and I came face-to-face with the difficult truth that our son had a mild learning challenge. It wasn’t anything major, and he has nearly overcome it in the years since. But at the time it set me back for a while. Our family is not perfect by any means. Still, it seemed like the kind of thing that just didn’t happen to us. My three other children have their unique strengths and weaknesses, but they didn’t have this specific challenge.

So I started asking questions I’m sure are normal for these kinds of situations: What caused this? Was it something I did—or didn’t do? Did we miss something that could have made a difference?

But it wasn’t long before those more self-centered thoughts turned to love and concern for my son. No matter what happened in the past, what can I do now to help him? My consuming thought was, Hey, this is my time to step up. I have to be a father. I need to be there for my son.

If any of you dads listening today have children with even more challenging issues—like autism, Down’s Syndrome, or something else—I know you’re very familiar with those thoughts and emotions. It’s often dads like you who set the mark and help us to define what it means to be a committed dad. When the needs of your child required some extra sacrifices, you stepped up. You put your child’s needs before your own, and you’ve never regretted it.

Those dads deserve more recognition for what they do.

And this message may be more for the rest of us who face the routine rigors of being a dad, but aren’t facing the overwhelming exhaustion of raising a child with extreme disabilities. I would say, “Dad, take a page from the playbook of the most committed dads you know. Make the radical decision to sacrifice your own desires and goals for the sake of your children.”

And then my other thought would be this: no matter what your children’s gifts, abilities, and weaknesses may be, cherish them for who they are. Be flexible, and grow with them. Let them teach you what it means to be a committed father.

 

careycaseycasual2007Carey Casey is Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering and author of the book Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad.

Through his work across the country, Casey has earned a reputation as a dynamic communicator, especially on the topic of men being good fathers. He’s known as a compassionate ambassador, particularly within the American sports community.

When New Daddies Get Stressed by Brian Dembowczyk

Dad's Turn
source: abennett96

Here are three common causes of stress for new fathers and tips for handling each one.

Sleep deprivation

No one gets much sleep with a newborn in the house. Without the rest you need, you will find yourself running on fumes and easily prone to being stressed and irritable. Be creative to find time for you and your wife to rest. Consider taking turns during nighttime feedings (if your wife is nursing, she can pump milk into a bottle for one of the late night feedings), allowing one of you to get at least a few hours of sleep. Take naps, or at least rest, when your baby is sleeping during the day.

A crying baby

This is perhaps the greatest cause of stress for fathers. Not only can a newborn’s cry be draining, men tend to be problem-solvers and fixers and sometimes it is quite difficult to soothe a crying baby. Here are six tips for soothing your crying baby.

  1. Swaddle her. Newborns feel secure when they are bundled up securely.
  2. Calmly and gently shhhh her. Babies like repetitive sounds, plus it makes you feel better to say it.
  3. Gently rock her. Try swaying back and forth to create motion.
  4. Change the way you are holding her.
  5. Give her a pacifier.
  6. If all else fails and you feel your blood pressure rising, walk away and pray. Crying never hurt a baby.

A crowded schedule

Life instantly gets hectic with a baby in the home which often leads to stress. Learn the art of prioritizing and clear as much off your calendar as possible. Allow the house to be a little messier than usual. Don’t worry about mowing the lawn as frequently. Prepare simpler meals. Forgo your hobby for a little while. Don’t make any commitments or appointments unless absolutely necessary.

What suggestions do you have for dads with newborns?

Dad’s Life with Carey Casey: The Importance of Modeling

Claire made me breakfast in bed!
source: escapist

Need a weekly nudge in your efforts to be the kind of dad your kids need? Here’s what worked for one dad.

Rick has two young children. He told me about some lessons he has learned, with help from the Fathers.com weekly e-mail. I think we can all probably learn something here.

Leading up to Mother’s Day one year, Rick’s wife was going out of town to visit her parents with their 2-year-old daughter and newborn son. So with her gone, Rick thought he was “off the hook.” He’d get her a card and give it to her when she came home.

Then he received our weekly e-mail. It suggested that he do something big to honor his bride and get the kids involved, because it’s important to set an example for them and show honor for the role of mothers.

When his family came home, he involved his 2-year-old daughter in choosing a special gift for Mom. Then, on the next Sunday, Rick and his daughter got up early and made a special breakfast together for their mom—including Eggs Benedict. It wasn’t the best-tasting meal, but his wife said it was the best Mother’s Day ever.

Another story from Rick reinforces the lesson: At Valentine’s Day last year, it was a busy time and he was planning to get a few simple gifts to bring home for his wife and his daughter. Once again, our weekly e-mail reminded him that he’s setting an important example—both in how he shows love to his wife and showing his daughter how she should expect to be treated by boys.

So Rick raised the bar. He made arrangements to take his daughter to a daddy-daughter dance. He dressed up and left the house so he could arrive at the appointed time to pick up his daughter for their date. He took her out to dinner and then they had a great time at the dance.

Dad, recognize that you’re always modeling behavior and character for your kids—whether you’re serving your wife, going to work, fixing something, or just hanging out. They’re always watching and learning from you, and like Rick shows us, it’s never too early to start.

 

careycaseycasual2007.jpg

Carey Casey is Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering and author of the book Championship Fathering: How to Win at Being a Dad.

Through his work across the country, Casey has earned a reputation as a dynamic communicator, especially on the topic of men being good fathers. He’s known as a compassionate ambassador, particularly within the American sports community.

Teaching Kids Love

You can ask the adult Sunday School class that I co-teach. Lots of times we dive into the topic for the day, hit lots of key questions, then I pop the question at the end of the lesson: “How do we make this real for our kids?” That’s the kicker! Sometimes we learn things on one level as a student but having to teach a concept to someone else is a different story. One of those questions is, “How can I teach my kids about love?”

I think the answer starts with showing our kids a glimpse of what unconditional love is like. I say a glimpse purposefully because I get a bit squeamish when I think of all my imperfections. I may intend to show my kids love but by the end of the day I hear them saying, “Dad, why are you so grumpy?” It is difficult not to feel like a failure in that regard.

No matter the mistakes we make, thankfully, we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us in such a remarkable way. He sent His own Son to die for us! That is true love. Communicating God’s love to your child is the best possible thing you can do as a parent! Take time this month of love to communicate how much you and God love your child!

Reflecting on Father’s Day

58.Fathersongame.jpgI have to admit I enjoyed every bit of attention I received on Father’s Day this year! From the first wishes of "Happy Father’s Day!" before church to the great lunch to a few presents, it did make me feel special as a Dad. I am so thankful to have talked to my Dad on Father’s Day too, catching up via long distance without having to rush to some other appointment or responsibility.

We talked about Dads in our adult Sunday School class too. In fact, I introduced the topic by asking folks to reflect on those things they do, whether consciously or not, that they inherited from their parents and the way they were raised. This is always an interesting discussion!

I told the class Sunday that it was no accident that I have a love for baseball and that my kids seem to play baseball constantly. My Dad used to lie awake at night listening to games on the radio, read the box scores every morning, and watch and play baseball with my brother and me on Saturdays. There was no surprise on Father’s Day when we started talking about the College World Series and the Vanderbilt-North Carolina game. I had to chuckle about that tonight as I kept the score book at Christopher’s game and missed 4 phone calls from home to check the score. You might say I was distracted!

As I grow older and begin to understand a little bit more of what my parents were like at my age, I can’t help but think of the iconic movie, Field of Dreams. The mysterious baseball diamond in the cornfield becomes the setting where Kevin Costner’s character comes face to face with his deceased father as a young man, full of the hopes and dreams of youth. It reminds me that there is something so bonding about just playing with our kids whether it is sitting in the floor rolling a ball back and forth with your toddler, teaching your kindergartner to play checkers, or one of my favorites, a game of catch in the yard.

I still am moved as an adult when I hear a clip of my childhood coaching hero, Jim Valvano, deliver a famous speech at the ESPY Awards, establishing his V Foundation to find a cure for cancer. It was a mere 8 weeks before he died from cancer. Valvano said that he believed you should do three things every day to be fully alive: laugh, think, and cry.

As a Dad, I would add play to that list. To me, play is the love language my boys speak! It literally shows them that I love them and puts my words into action. Someday I hope they think fondly of those times together really living life … whether laughing, thinking, crying, or playing. Wishing you fond memories of your Dad and great memory-making moments with your kids!

William

Jump by Tim Abel

When my daughter was 2 years old, she was learning to climb up and down the stairs in our house. I remember standing behind her, then beside her, helping her up and down the stairs. It was not long before she did not need my help when she was climbing up the stairs. She was a "big girl" and she could do it by herself! However, she still needed my help to start walking down the stairs because the banister started several steps down from the top landing. 

She would stand at the top of the landing and call for me to come help her to the banister. I would climb the stairs and drop to my knees about four steps from the top landing. After I was in place, she would back up, take a running start, and jump into my arms giggling. Once she was in my arms I would set her on the stairs by the beginning of the banister. She would then carefully walk down the steps without any additional help.

It is funny how helping my daughter reminded me of some very important truths that I had allowed to be crowded out by the circumstances and obstacles of life. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we can call out to our Father and He will always be there.

One afternoon I went upstairs to my office and was quickly followed by my daughter. She played in her room while I was working. After I completed my tasks, I quietly snuck downstairs. She soon realized that I had gone downstairs and cried out for me to come help her. I told her, “You are a big girl and you can do it yourself."  I quietly peeked around the corner and watched her nervously try to take that first big step.

As she peered down that first step, I wondered what she must be thinking. What an obstacle! She finally sat down and tried to crawl down to reach the banister. However, just looking down all those stairs was too much for her. She was scared. She called out for me, her father. I came around the corner and stood at the bottom of the stairs. As soon as she saw me turn the corner she started backing up to jump into my arms. My heart dropped as I realized that she was not going to wait until I was in my normal place before she jumped. I tried to race up the stairs, but it was too late! I caught her in mid-air halfway up the stairs. I was immediately upset that she had done such a crazy thing!

As I angrily carried her down the remaining steps, God stepped in and broke my heart. You see, I had been struggling with a series of obstacles in my life. I found myself overwhelmed by that first big step and then scared as I looked beyond. When my daughter was confronted with her obstacle, she called out for me, her father. When she saw me come around the corner the obstacle before her melted away as she jumped into her father’s arms.

June_17_Jumping.jpg

I learned a very important lesson that day. I can allow the obstacles in my life to become so large that they overshadow His presence. Or I can be so steadfastly focused on God’s presence that He is able to continually contend with and transform the obstacles before me.

Psalm 73:23 says our Heavenly Father is always with us. Just as my daughter knew that I would always be there for her, we can know that our Heavenly Father will always be there for us. We must continually maintain our focus upon Him, especially when we are facing life’s obstacles. We can’t do it alone; we will always need our Heavenly Father’s presence and guidance in our lives. He is always there waiting to catch us as we jump by faith into His loving arms.

Tim and his wife, Tammy, have been married for 15 years. They have three children (Hannah 9, Elijah 8, and Samuel 6). Tim has been called to the full-time pastorate. He completed his Bachelors degree in pastoral studies at Cedarville University. He is currently creating a terminal illness ministry prior to entering the full-time pastorate.

Have you ever learned spiritual lessons through the actions of your child? Share your insight with other ParentLife readers by leaving a comment.

Extra June Events

Be sure add these two events to your June calendar. Enjoy shoes and dessert … while helping out two great causes!

Purchases with a Purpose by Pediped

Pediped.jpgBeginning June 8 through July 11, pediped® footwear will host a Purchases with Purpose fundraiser.   Fifty percent of the purchase price will be donated to the Make-A-Wish® Foundation to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. During this period, select styles of both Originals and Flex shoes will be marked down as much as 40 percent. So if you love to shoe shop, check it out, knowing that your purchases will serve a wonderful purpose!

Father’s Day Frosty Weekend

Frosty.jpgWendy’s is celebrating the fourth annual Father’s Day Frosty Weekend by satisfying Dad’s sweet tooth and giving the whole family the satisfaction of helping the more than 123,000 children in the U.S. who are waiting for the love of forever families. During Father’s Day Weekend, June 19–20, Wendy’s will donate 50 cents for every Frosty sold to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA).

There are several additional ways customers can get involved and raise money for the DTFA. Visit www.frostycard.com or www.facebook.com/frosty for all of the details.

The money raised online in the weeks leading up to Father’s Day weekend and in-store during the holiday weekend will directly support Dave Thomas Foundation’s signature program – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK). The program awards grants for adoption agencies to hire recruiters to aggressively work to place foster children into adoptive families.

Does your family have big plans to celebrate this Father’s Day Weekend? How will you celebrate Dad?

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Super Cool Steals logo.pngBuying Dad a present can be a challenge. What do you get the man who has everything, wants nothing and thinks you should save your money? Here are some ideas from www.supercoolsteals.com

  • Invest it! Sounds crazy – maybe. But Dad wants to know he has done a good job raising you. Sit down and tell him how you are doing in life. Tell him thanks for being a good dad and raising you right.
  • Play ball! Is your dad a sports fan? Take him to the batting cages and let him hit a few. Buy him tickets to see his favorite team or pick up a t-shirt or other memorabilia.
  • What is dad’s favorite meal? Set a time to cook (or order in) for him.
  • Ask him to teach you something. Or make a plan to learn something new together. His advice is free and you know he loves to give it.
  • Make a photo book. Or frame your favorite one for his office. You can save money by using sites like picaboo.com (coupon codes on supercoolsteals.com).
  • Shop online. Check out www.supercoolsteals.com where you’ll even find a special Father’s Day category.

Or donate in honor of your dad to worldvision.org or imb.orgto help care for those in need.

What are you buying Dad for Father’s Day?

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

wendys_logo.pngThis Father’s Day, Wendy’s is serving up a tasty treat for Dad and a chance to give back while spending time with the family. Visit any participating Wendy’s over Father’s Day Weekend (June 21-22) when Wendy’s will donate 50¢ from every Frosty sold to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA), a non-profit public charity dedicated to  increasing the adoptions of the more than 150,000 children in North America’s foster care system.
 

logo-trans.pngKids can visit FrostyCard.com to choose from a variety of scenes and objects, from sandcastles on the beach to baseball in the backyard, and create a free custom Father’s Day e-Card for Dad! To top things off, Wendy’s will donate an additional 25¢ to the DTFA for every Frosty Card sent.
 
What fun things do have you planned for Father’s Day?