I heard someone say, “All children are special, and all children have needs.” While parenting children with disabilities does present an extra set of challenges, I do think it is helpful to think about the commonalities of parenting.
Many special needs parents feel isolated, but I have discovered that isolation is not reserved for special needs parents. I have heard from many young parents, single parents, and those with young children in the home that they too feel isolated. Maybe we can help each other feel a little less alone.
Special needs parents need friends. But so do parents of typical children. Friendship is a need we all have, and we all want to have meaningful relationships, friends that we can call up at any time and share life with.
Special needs parents worry about their kids constantly. Yes, our worries are exponential, especially if we have medically fragile children. There is no comparison, but all parents worry about their children too. I have friends who worry that their kid is hanging out with the wrong friends, or that they’re experimenting with drugs, or that their teenage daughter could get pregnant. While our worries might be different, we all worry. Maybe we can pray for each other, lift our kids up to God, and ask for wisdom and guidance as we parent.
Special needs parents worry their kids won’t have any friends or that they’ll be picked on. Yet I have talked to so many parents of typical children that worry about the same thing. And I have seen their tears and watched as they try to protect their kids. We love our kids fiercely, not one of us has more love than the other.
Special needs parents don’t have a manual or road map to know how to parent their kids. Parents of typical kids don’t either. We are all doing the best we can.
We are all parents, just parents, trusting that God will guide us in this lifetime adventure.
Ellen 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. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com