Find Hope While Raising a Disabled Child
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2002 18 Jan
As you watch your child suffer, you suffer, and the demands of caring for him or her can easily seem overwhelming. But there is hope. God loves you and your child and will help you both survive - and even thrive - despite the limitations of your child's handicap in this fallen world.
Here are some ways you can cope with the unique challenges of raising a disabled child:
- Know that God is always present with you and cares about how you feel. Remember that Jesus experienced intense physical and emotional suffering during His time on Earth, and that God the Father watched His only Son endure that suffering.
- Freely express difficult feelings - such as anger and fear - about your child's disability without worrying about offending God. He already knows how you feel and wants you to be honest with Him about your struggles. He will meet you where you are to help you with whatever needs you have.
- Take the time to grieve the loss of your dream of a healthy child, then embrace the gift of the child you do have. Ask God to give you eyes to see your child as He does and to strengthen you for whatever lies ahead.
- Gather as much information as you can about the particular condition that's afflicting your child, whether it's a disease (like cystic fibrosis) or the result of an accident (such as nerve damage due to a car accident). Research your options for providing the best care for your child, and ask God to show you how He would like you to proceed.
- Seek out the company of other parents who are dealing with similar situations with their children. Join a support group if you can. Talk to trusted friends about your struggles and receive the encouragement and support they offer. Ask people to refer you to the best physicians and therapists and to recommend the best equipment as you nurture your child.
- Carve out time in your schedule to invest in yourself and your marriage on a regular basis. Be creative and proactive in finding childcare by qualified people if at all possible. When it's not, make time for yourself and your marriage when your child is asleep. Maintain some activities separate from caring for your child so your child's condition doesn't define your life. God will help you find a balance.
- Don't dwell on a negative medical prognosis. Realize that no doctor knows for certain what will happen in the future and that, with God, there is always hope. Give your child as many opportunities as possible, and avoid being over-protective. Answer all your child's questions, and encourage him or her to trust God. Pray regularly with and for your child.
- Closely observe your child to learn all about his or her nuances, then act as your child's advocate with doctors, therapists, and teachers, explaining what's best for your child and why.
- Maintain a sense of humor. Many studies have shown that laughter reduces stress.
- Encourage your child to dream and set goals for his or her future, then help your child work toward achieving those goals. Build on your child's strengths by providing activities for him or her that relate well to your child's interests and talents.
- If your child has healthy siblings, spend regular time individually with them as well so they don't feel neglected. Encourage them to respect their brother or sister and educate them about how they can best help. But don't rely on them for babysitting or other responsibilities that should belong to parents.
- Involve grandparents in your child's life and keep them abreast of what's going on as your child copes with his or her disability. Accept help that they offer, but be considerate of their time.
- If possible, take your disabled child to church with you regularly, and educate others in your church family about your child's condition so they'll know how best to help and build relationships with your child.
- When you can't provide the level of care your child needs at home, carefully research residential facilities before choosing one. Take your time to scrutinize whether each place you consider will truly be the best place for your child. Check facilities' ratings and references. Once your child moves in, visit as often as possible, and take him or her home for visits whenever you can. Never relinquish your custodial rights as a parent.
Adapted from Extraordinary Kids, copyright 1997 by Cheri Fuller and Louise Tucker Jones. Published by Focus on the Family Publishing, Colorado Springs, Co.
Cheri Fuller is the author of numerous books, and has had personal experience with special needs children in her own extended family. She is the mother of three grown children. Louise Tucker Jones is a freelance writer, former teacher and an advocate for people with disabilities. She is the mother of four children, including her youngest son, Jay, who has Down syndrome and progressive heart disease.
Do you know a disabled child - perhaps your own child, one in your family, or the child of a friend? If so, what challenges and rewards have you encountered through your relationship with that child? How can you encourage other people dealing with a disabled child in their lives? Visit the Books forum to respond, or read what others have to say. Just click on the link below.