Parenting any child is both beautiful and challenging, but those challenges can be even more complex when you have a child with special needs. “Special needs” means any form of diagnosed condition and they can vary significantly in severity. They can include physical disabilities, behavioural/emotional difficulties ore learning difficulties. When I am working with parents of children with special needs, I encourage them to consider the three A’s of best parenting practices.
The first A stands for acceptance. Accept that this parenting journey is going to be different than what you thought it might be. Let go of any expectations you may have had for your child before they were born, and work to find peace with the child you have in reality. Know that every parenting journey is beautiful and full of joy. Accept that your child will have different strengths and weaknesses than a child without a special need. And most importantly, wholeheartedly model unconditional acceptance of your child in a way that they can understand.
The second A also stands for acceptance. Help your child to accept themselves and not compare themselves to others. Of course preventing comparisons can be tricky, but remind your child that it’s really not possible to compare accurately as there are so many different things that make up a person. Help your them see their whole self and view their weaknesses within the context of all of their strengths. Encourage them to learn from and see past any obstacles they might face to discover new opportunities where they can thrive and succeed.
The final A … is – you guessed it – also for acceptance. Help the other people in your child’s life accept your child and their unique and wonderful life journey. Encourage their friends, classmates and members of the community to accept them. Invite questions and conversation rather than shying away from them. Do not fear asking for any special accommodations you might need. Our community belongs to every one of us and we should all be accepted for who we are, with or without special needs. While it can sometimes be difficult to get everyone onboard with supporting children with special needs, push ahead with the expectation of acceptance and inclusion and let others know when they are out of line or how they can help.
When you accept your child’s condition and model that acceptance in your day-today life, your child learns to accept it as well. They feel that your love is unconditional and that you will always be there for them as they face the challenges ahead. It also helps them put these challenges in perspective and try to overcome them whenever possible. Without acceptance, the child can feel rejected and subsequently the challenges become exponentially more difficult for everyone involved. By integrating these 3 A’s of acceptance into your family and your community, you will be helping to shape the best possible future for your child while also promoting diversity, inclusivity and equity in our world.
– Dr. Jillian Roberts