Vandana Sharma, Principal, MBCN Charitable School for Children with Special Needs, writes:
All parents attach to their children through their dreams, fantasies, illusions, and projections into the future. Children are our second chance in life to fulfill our dreams; our ultimate “life products”. Finding out that your child has a disability is one of the most shattering things that can happen to you. You may feel grief at the loss of dreams for the child’s future and worry about their future.
With growing awareness of your child’s limitations, you experience a variety of stressors and reactions related to his disability. As you get used to of the situation, you may feel sad, especially when thinking about you disappointed hopes and dreams for your child and yourself. There can be feelings of blame – directed towards yourself and others – as well as fear about the future. You may also feel confused and overloaded, with too much information, or not enough information, or sometimes conflicting advice and pressure to take decisions. You can’t prevent these feelings; dealing with these feelings is part of coming to terms with the diagnosis and moving on with life and your child’s life.
Here are few tips for you to cope with the situation:
Seek the Assistance of another Parent
My first recommendation is to try to find another parent of a child with a disability, preferably one who has chosen to be a parent helper, and seek his or her assistance. Recognize that you are not alone. The feeling of isolation at the time of diagnosis is almost universal among parents. It helps to know that these feelings have been experienced by many others and understanding and constructive help are available to you and your child.
Talk with Your Spouse, Family & Significant Others
Over the years, I have discovered that many parents don’t communicate their feelings. Talk to people close to you, particularly your partner. Talk with important people in your life. For many people, the temptation to close up emotionally is great at this point, but it can be so beneficial to have reliable friends and relatives who can help to carry this emotional burden.
Do Not Be Afraid to Show Emotion
Many of you, especially dads, repress emotions because you think it is a sign of weakness. In fact, the strongest fathers of children with disabilities who I know are not afraid to show their emotions.
Learn to Deal with Natural Feelings of Bitterness and Anger
Feelings of bitterness and anger are inevitable when you realize that you must revise the hopes and dreams you had for your child. It is very valuable to recognize your anger and to learn to let go of it. However, owever, bbbby acknowledging and working through your negative feelings, you will be better equipped to meet new challenges.
Be kind and Take Care of Yourself
In times of stress, each person reacts in his or her own way. A few universal recommendations may help: get sufficient rest; eat well; take time for yourself; reach out to others for emotional support.
Self-pity or pity for your child is actually disabling. It is not pity but empathy, which is the ability to feel with another person, is the right attitude.
Decide How to Deal With Others
During this period, you may feel saddened by or angry about the way people react. Many people’s reactions to serious problems are caused by a lack of understanding and that is why they may react inappropriately. It’s better to not to use too much energy being concerned about people who are not able to respond appropriately.
Take One Day at a Time
Fears of the future can immobilize you. Living with the reality of the day becomes more manageable if “what if’s” and “what then’s” of the future are thrown out. You have enough to focus on; get through each day, one step at a time.
The important thing is that you request accurate information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because it will be your first step in beginning to understand more about your child.
Celebrate successes and milestones
Your child might be growing differently but he/she will be reaching own goals and milestones along the way. There will be lots of reasons to feel positive.
Remember That This is Your Child
This person is your child; your child’s development may be different from others, but this does not make your child less valuable or in less need of your love. The child comes first; the disability comes second.
If you can relax and take the positive steps just outlined, one at a time, you will do the best you can and you can look forward to the future with hope.