Fathers with children with special needs are often unsung heroes. A recent survey conducted by Scope reported that 84% of Dads feel financial pressure as a result of caring for a disabled child, forcing them to work long hours. Seven out of 10 say caring for a disabled son or daughter has severely affected their relationship with their partner. The reality is that being a special needs dad is tough. Here’s how Superdads cope.
Some families will have one parent look after the special needs child while the other parents looks after the other kids. It may seem easier this way, but your special needs child should have the love, care and attention of both parents if they are available. Dividing responsibility can cause resentment amongst the other children. Divide tasks, but always give equal attention.
Keep yourself in Good Shape
Maintaining physical and mental strength is key to looking after a special needs child. Eat well and exercise. This will give you the stamina and strength to deal with the often draining commitments and stress that comes with being a special needs parent. Your child needs you to have energy and vitality and this means getting enough sleep. Healthy eating, regular exercise and time for yourself will help you deal with the stress, early mornings and late nights.
Make Time for Yourself and your Partner
Being a special needs parent is an intense responsibility. It is often physically and emotionally challenging. All parents needs a break from their children -whether thy have special needs or not- to unwind. Set up a regular time during the week that is yours where you focus on being man and wife/partner and not just parents. Your relationship with your partner is important for your happiness and also important for effective parenting.
Fathers feel an overwhelming need to protect and provide for their family. With special needs children and the associated doctors’ visits, setbacks, problems, stress and constant worry, special needs Dads can feel like they aren’t doing enough for their children. Open up and share your feelings. Talk to a counsellor, therapist, friend or family member. Seek out other special needs Dads. Most people won’t understand what you do on a daily basis and how difficult it can be, so find other Dads who do.
Do Normal Things with your Child
Where possible, integrate you and your child into normal, regular activities. A mental or physical disability doesn’t have to stop you and your child having fun together. For help with this, visit Kids In Action, a charity that organises trips, fun activities and excursions.
Don’t be So Hard on Yourself
Many dads work a full time job and care for a special needs child. You may not be able to go to every appointment or every therapy session. You may not be there for every meal time. Remember that you can’t do it all and don’t punish yourself when you don’t.
Don’t worry about what your Child Can or Can’t Do
Your child will develop at their own pace. He or she will find joy in their own way, progress in their own way and add value to your life in their own way. You may need to reassess your expectations as to what you thought fatherhood would be like. Whether your child meets that preconception or not isn’t important, the reality is different and is every bit as positive.
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