Accepting differences. Sounds simple, right? It should be, but too often, I’ve found it to be one of the hardest aspects of my life as a mom. Two and a half years ago I was given someone who would crack open my self-created life bubble and my attempts to force my family to fit into some society-driven unattainable mold. This little someone would drastically change me, my parenting, my family, and every day of the rest of my life.
When I first became a mom, more than 9 years ago, the thought of raising a special needs child never entered my head. Over the years when I encountered moms of children with special needs, I would treat or view them with sympathy and, I’ll admit it, pity. Sadness for them that their child will “never do this” or “can never try that” . I also felt sadness for the mom, whose adventure into motherhood was nothing like she dreamed it would be. Sadness that their child was different.
And then I was given – blessed with – one of these beautiful children and I will never be the same. There’s no way I can be. I would love to share with you all the ways I’ve grown, all the changes that have had to happen in my life – the ups, the downs – and every side of what it’s really like to parent a special needs child. But I can’t because there is just far too much for this one little post.
What I would love to share with you are some great ways to support and encourage a mom who is parenting a special needs child.
1. Accept their differences – don’t compare them. Comparing a special needs child (even a mildly special needs child) to a healthy functioning one is like comparing apples and oranges. As a mom who parents both, there are a few overlapping commonalities but overall, my special needs son is a whole new ball game. When I try to compare my kids – to each other, to other peoples kids – it gets me nowhere. When I, and others we encounter, accept my son just as he is, I feel more confident, encouraged and loving as a mom.
2. Don’t feel bad for me. Like every mom, there are good days and bad days. What means that more than sympathy? I could really just use a hug and an encouraging word.
3. Don’t assume my child’s behavior is a result of bad parenting. It is wonderful being asked why my son is behaving the way he is instead of assuming I need to learn how to discipline or control him.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I love when other moms ask me why my son does some of the things he does. Not so I can excuse the behavior, but so that there is a deeper understanding of him and how he functions differently.
5. Ask about their accomplishments. Just like any kid, kids with special needs have many milestones – they are just a little different. And just like any mom, we love talking about the things our children are accomplishing.
6. Interact with my child as if they were “normal”.