I’m sure you’ll agree that trying to balance the needs of everyone in any family is hard work. You’ll always have competing needs and priorities. No-one will ever be entirely happy. And you, as the parent, will always be blamed for any perceived unfairness.
Because there’s always a favoured child, isn’t there? Or, that’s what we all think as children, anyway.
But talk to any special needs parent and they’ll tell you that achieving any sort of balance is pretty much impossible.
Try as we might to give equal attention and focus to all our children, it’s inevitable that the child with special needs will command the most attention.
Because they have special and additional needs.
There is no way around that fact. It is the truth.
Quite rightly, they will need more time and attention and support to help them with these needs.
The best we can do as special needs families is to accept this is our reality and let go of the obligatory guilt that comes with it.
Guilt always seems to come as a side with pretty much every experience to be had as special needs parents.
And it just makes everything we do that much harder.
So accept this reality and let go of the guilt – it really will make things a whole lot easier.
Instead, concentrate on the ways that you can find a little more balance for your special needs family right now:
Be proactive in engineering opportunities to have one-on-one time with each of your kids. Never underestimate the power of a quick afternoon tea, a trip to the shops, a walk to the park or just spending quiet time with them, individually. All kids thrive on one-on-one time with their parents and providing them with dedicated attention will help restore some balance. Even taking the time on a regular basis to have a one-on-one conversation with them prior to bed can do wonders. So think about the small pockets of time available to you in your day and work out how you can best take advantage of them.
Celebrate & prioritise their achievements. This can be hard, particularly if you are the sole carer and struggle to find respite options for your special needs child. But showing your support by being there when it’s time for your kids to receive awards or perform on stage or compete in a race will go a long way to helping achieve more balance in your family. If you cannot be there, making sure their achievements are rewarded with a special dinner or outing is a must. It’s important to demonstrate that their achievements and efforts do not go unnoticed, even if you cannot be there to share in their moment of glory.
Make sure they know how much they mean to you. You know you love them. They know you love them. But they also know that you spend so much more time with their special needs sibling. Even if you cannot provide them with the same level of ongoing attention, demonstrate how important they are to you. Tell them you love them. Be open with them about your situation (in an age-appropriate way) and ask for their opinion on ways you can spend more quality time together as a family. Show them that you respect their contribution to the family and that they are a very important part of it.
Consider challenging your special needs child. If there is something you would like to do as a family, or something you’d like to change, don’t automatically rule it out because of the needs of your special needs child. It might be possible to push them a little in order to benefit the whole family. In the past, we’ve been able to restore a little bit of balance by challenging our ASD son’s opposition to events such as overseas travel, the addition of pets, trying new food and the arrival of new siblings. It’s never an easy process & you can only present a single challenge at a time. However, once you accept that it’s okay to attempt to challenge your special needs child, it could empower your family to find a little more balance too.
Do you have any further tips for trying to find more balance as a special needs family?
Would you like more support as a special needs parent?
Subscribe to Positive Special Needs Parenting to receive updates, advice and support from someone who's been there (and is still very much there!)
A lot of those are worth remembering for all families…good post.
Thanks Lydia x
This is so true! I started doing a weekly music and dance class with my 21 month old for this reason. I have to send her to daycare 3 days a week just so I can take/do therapies for her 3 year old brother, and I feel guilty for that (though she needed the social interaction, my son ignores her entirely).
I love the idea of number 4, challenging your special needs child. We have to really force ourselves into this, otherwise we encourage the rigidity of routines ourselves.
The whole idea of challenging the child that needs more support can be confronting but, in our experience, it can work. I want my son to grow up knowing he is loved and supported but he also needs to understand that the family does not revolve solely around him (although it can seem like that most of the time!) I’m writing a post about this idea which will go into more detail about what I mean and what we’ve done in the past to get our son to accept pretty big changes in his life. Hoping it might help other families too x
Were not a special needs family but even still, we had 3 under 3 and I struggle at times to find balance and give everyone the attention they need.
I’m continually in awe that you managed with 3 under 3 and that you are managing with 3 teenagers now!
I love your positive attitude Kirsty, always makes to look at what I am doing and what I have. Keep the the awesome parenting.
Thanks Nat – I want to spread a little bit of positivity where I can, sprinkled amid the confessions and honesty, of course!
I really love your positive attitude. I think these points are so important to remember for all families as we all face challenges like this with our children in amidst trying to find some balance.
Balance in any facet of our lives, is the holy grail, isn’t it Erika? And it does seem to be getting further and further out of our reach with the growing demands on modern families. It really does help to step back and try to look at the small steps you can achievably take in order to start making change in the right direction.
Very relevant for all families, I reckon. Thanks Kirsty!
Most definitely – it can be so hard with all the commitments within a family to have enough time to devote to everyone’s individual needs. One-on-one time, however brief, can do wonders in a short amount of time, for every family.
I have just joined the families with a special needs child, I found it quiet depressing at times. However, with the support of my son’s senco which has given me a sense of relief, he suggested blogging. Yours is the first blogg I have read Kirsty. Wow, such positivity and very inspiring. Thank you.
Hi Tracey, thanks so much for your lovely comment! I completely understand how depressing it can be to read all the challenges and the tough parts of being a special needs parent. My goal is to reveal the truth (yes it can be tough) but to also encourage other special needs parents to find ways to see the positives. And if you look hard enough, you will always find some. Blogging has helped me to better cope with the demands of my life and I can really recommend it. If you ever want any tips or a sounding board or just a friendly ear, I’m here!
Great tips. I’m sharing this with a couple of friends who I know would really value this advice. Xx
Thanks so much Shannon – very much appreciated!