Our children are an amazing gift. They bring so much joy to our lives, but also a fair amount of stress and sadness. Our ideas about who our children will be are usually free of thoughts of mental health issues or behavioral struggles. Adjusting to the reality of our kids’ lives compared to our fantasy can be very difficult. Some parents have referred to the process of reconciling their reality as akin to grieving. Parents have to allow themselves to accept who their children are for both their strengths and their challenges.
In her fantastic essay “Welcome to Holland”, writer Emily Perl Kingsley compares the experience of having a special needs child to planning a dream vacation to Italy only to land in Holland. At first there is disappointment, but that is soon replaced by the knowledge that while the experience may not be what one had looked forward to initially, it is wonderful in its own way.
This process to acceptance and even celebration of children’s differences is difficult but can be made easier by sharing the journey. Here at The Harris School we have a weekly parent group in which parents can share their experiences and know that they are not alone in what they are facing. This group is not unique as there are support groups for most issues that parents face, including grief, addiction, autism and more.
The main things to focus on as a parent of a special needs child are the ways in which your child enriches your life and that you are not alone. It may be stressful at times, but it’s never boring.