Parenting is a journey filled with both joys and challenges, but when you are raising a child with special needs, those challenges make parenting more tough. As a friend, family member, or community member, it's important to offer support to parents in these situations.
Here Are Some Valuable Tips For Helping Parents of Children With Special Needs.
- Educate Yourself: Understanding the specific needs and challenges of the child is crucial. Take the time to educate yourself about their condition or disability. You can not help anyone, another parent unless you know about the problems and challenges that come with children with special needs. For example, learning some sign language to help communicate with a deaf child will certainly be appreciated by the parent.
- Include them, Be open: Include the child in social activities and gatherings whenever possible. This helps normalize their presence and allows the parents to feel supported in the community. Inclusion is key to breaking down stigmas surrounding disabilities. Parents of children with special needs also need some outings and regular non-judgemental get-togethers
- Offer Practical and financial help: Offer help with some practical tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking, or dropping off children etc. You may help them with some financial resources if you can afford them because we all know special schools and their special classes cost a lot in our country. This can actually ease the burden on parents who often have to juggle multiple responsibilities.
- Educate your children: Increasing awareness in children goes a long way in fostering friendships and will help your child learn to play with a kid with special needs and offer help, companionship, and empathy. If you know you will be spending time with my child who has a disability, talk to your child about it beforehand. It will reduce bullying at times of inclusive get-togethers.
- Respect Their Privacy: While offering support is important, it's equally crucial to respect their privacy. Avoid prying into personal matters unless they choose to share. When their child is throwing tantrums, or having meltdowns, stay calm and respect their privacy.
- Be Non-Judgmental: Avoid making assumptions or judgments about their parenting style or decisions. Parents with special children know a lot more about their children than we do, Respect their knowledge and experiences. Avoid making assumptions or offering unsolicited advice unless they ask for it.
- Stay connected and Celebrate their Achievements with them
Maintain regular contact with the parents, even if it's just a brief check-in. Knowing that there are people who care can make a world of difference in their day-to-day lives. Celebrate the small victories and achievements, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may appear. Appreciating their progress, no matter how much they have progressed, can provide a much-needed morale boost for both the child and the parents.
- Encourage Self-Care
Remind parents to take care of themselves. Encourage them to set aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and self-care activities. A well-supported parent is better equipped to support their child. Book a spa for the mother, or a golf party for the parents on weekends to indulge them in self-care.
- Stop Staring and Being Afraid to Ask Questions
Never pity them, never feel awful for them, and don't just stare at their children like they are aliens. Never shy away from asking questions in your mind about children with special needs, the more you know about exceptional kids, the more you can help them thrive and feel they are worthy of being seen for who they truly are.
- Encourage child friendships: It can be hard, depending on the child’s disability, for children with special needs to make friends so why not encourage friendships between them and your own kids? Offer invitations for play dates, invite the child to birthday parties, call up the parent in question and try to make some arrangements that work for them.
- Learn How to Communicate with the Child: Understanding how to communicate effectively with a special needs child can be incredibly beneficial. Ask the parents for guidance on what works best for their child and practice patience in your interactions.
- Be Mindful of Sensory Needs
If the child has sensory sensitivities, be mindful of their environment. For example, avoid loud noises or bright lights if they are overwhelming for the child.
Learn to Be Comfortable with Differences: Children with special needs may express themselves or interact with the world in unique ways. Be open-minded and accepting of these differences, and treat the child with the same dignity and respect you would with any other child.
- Be there for them: Sometimes they need a friendly ear to listen to their concerns, and sometimes they need someone trusted to step in and give them a break or offer advice. Ultimately being there for them will be individual to the parent and their family situation, and they will be glad of your support.