Some parents have a hard time accepting that their child is disabled. The child might have a disability that isn’t immediately obvious (such as a learning disability) and so the parent tries to deny it, or it might simply be that having a disabled child was never in their dream of the ideal family and they are having trouble altering that dream vision.
This difficulty or absolute inability to acknowledge and accept their child’s special needs can create huge problems in a marriage. It’s been found that if you have special needs children, it’s more likely that your marriage will end in divorce than a marriage in which all the children are “normal” and healthy. Therefore, it’s important that parents come to terms with the fact that their child has special needs.
The first step in that process is education. Educating yourself is vital. Learn about the condition itself, as well as the treatments involved, the expected progression, potential cures, medications, etc. The more you know about the disability, the easier it becomes to accept it. When something is unfamiliar, it’s easy to fear it. With fear comes denial. By taking your child’s condition out of the foreign category and placing it in the well-known category, fear is instantly reduced.
The next step is discussion. It’s imperative that both parents communicate about the child and the disability. Communication with each other is key, but so is communication with the doctors, therapists and anyone else involved in caring for your child. Ask questions, review research, discuss options, and don’t make assumptions. If you’re confused, talk about it. If you’re angry, sad or scared, talk to your spouse. It’s likely you’re both feeling the same things, and that knowledge will ease your feelings. You’ll also be able to reassure each other this way.
If you find that you’re having trouble accepting your child’s needs, or that you are too stressed out and overloaded by it, find a therapist. Your child needs the best possible parent you can be, and living in denial or being so stressed that you lose your temper every time the sun is covered by a cloud is not going to give that to your child. A therapist can help you accept the changes in your life, give you someone to vent to, and help you work out other issues you may have in your life that are contributing to your difficulty in the moment.
If you have your own health issues, it’s especially important to seek out the services of a therapist. A parent suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or other mental disorders should certainly speak to a therapist to ensure that they are dealing well with their own issues and those of their child. If you have physical health issues, such as cancer or a heart condition, that might limit your ability to do things for your child, you may feel guilty and as though you can’t or don’t do enough for your child. In that case, it’s vital to talk to a therapist who can help you deal with your guilt and to see that you are doing the best you can.
Dr. Karen Fattorosi is a therapist in Ocala that has experience working with families of special needs children. She accepts a wide variety of insurance plans, and deals with many other issues as well. If you don’t have a therapist in mind, call Dr. Fattorosi to schedule an appointment.
It’s also important to consider whether or not your child may need some help accepting their disability. Depending on the disability and your child’s age at the time of the diagnosis, you may discover that your child doesn’t want to admit to having a disability. They may want to refuse to take their medication, refuse treatments or equipment necessary, or even attempt to deny that they have a disability. If this happens, it’s important to talk to your child, and to have him or her talk to a therapist. While it’s important that parents, family and friends accept a child’s disability, it’s probably more important that the child himself accept it. Without the child’s acknowledgment and acceptance of their own disability, no one else will be able to help them.
It’s crucial for everyone in the family to accept and understand that your child has special needs. If one or more of you is having difficulty with it, don’t assume it will just get better on it’s own. Talk to each other, or to a therapist, and work to come to terms with it. Don’t allow the denial to continue.