Miranda already had three young children when her son, Bobby, was born with Down Syndrome. Miranda would tell you that Bobby was a welcome addition to the family, that everyone loves him and that her life is richer because she has a child with special needs. What she might not tell you – what she might not say even to herself – is that the extra demands Bobby puts on the resources of the whole family have brought them to tears and conflict on more than one occasion. Miranda’s husband travels a lot and though this was a sacrifice before Bobby came along, now it is a strain. Miranda’s second child has always been extremely shy, but she’s recently developed the weird habit of wandering off with motherly strangers. Miranda herself is overwhelmed and wonders if she might be depressed.
Studies show that when one child in a family has special needs, the whole family is under more stress than other families around them. There is no way to avoid this because of the extra time, responsibility and worry that come with any new situation. It is best to recognize the challenges and meet them head on. For a family to be at its strongest, happiest and best, it’s important to pay attention to how well it’s working and where the edges might be fraying. Parents lead this effort by taking care of themselves and making family care a priority. Our new handout on this topic will give you some practical suggestions. Use it to take stock of your family’s health (even if you don’t have a child with special needs) now and regularly in the future. Parents and older children could discuss these ideas at a family meeting. I’m including the handout below (which you can download directly), and it will also be available on our Resources page.
Make it your goal to love for the long haul, to work together as a family, to rest well and to encourage others to do the same. It’s not selfish to make sure you have a strong foundation – it’s a necessary blessing.
I’d love it if you would share your ideas and experiences in the “Comments” section.