6 Valuable Lessons I've Learned From Parenting Two Children With Disabilities
As the parent of two children with disabilities, I’ve traveled a journey filled with many trials and tribulations. There have been days on this journey when I’ve felt powerful as a parent, but there have also been days when I could’ve used a bit more motivation to do better. Still, I’ve learned to take the hard with the good. On any given day, you never know where your journey as a parent to a child with a disability will take you, but along the road I’ve learned the following lessons.
1. You may be your disabled child’s most powerful advocate.
It is through you that your child may perceive the world around them. Stand up for them, speak up for them, teach them, and most importantly, walk the road of life with them. It will take immense bravery and courage to advocate for your child, and there will be days when you’ll find yourself lost for words, but no matter what, keep going!
2. Consistency and routine may be key in parenting a child with disabilities.
In my almost 20 years of raising kids with disabilities, I’ve found that a good, consistent routine can help keep both parents and their children grounded and secure. If your child gets used to a routine, it may be easier for them to process day-to-day activities without feeling overstimulated or becoming overwhelmed. A well-planned-out routine can help both you and your child flourish — even on the hardest of days.
3. Learn to accept the things you cannot change for your child with disabilities.
Everything I’ve come to experience as a parent of children with disabilities has set me on a different path than other parents may have. I’ve learned to accept that which cannot be, and I’ve embraced all that can and will be. I’ve grown to live for every accomplishment and milestone my kids have reached — no matter how big or small. In parenting my children, I discovered it’s the little moments that make the bigger picture whole. Celebrate each moment. It may be different than what other parents may celebrate with their children, but it’s those little differences that will fill your heart with joy. Learn to accept and embrace every part of your children.
4. Let your child with disabilities be your guide.
Navigating the waters of parenting can be a difficult task, but letting our children be our guide can help us navigate those tough waters. Learn to follow your child’s pace, go as slow or as fast as they need to, and give them time and space to explore the world while being right there with them every step of the way. Trusting in your child’s ability to show you what they may need will eventually become second nature. Take time to learn and grow with your children. You’ll be amazed at what you may learn when you see through your child’s eyes.
5. Be kind to yourself when raising your child with disabilities.
At times, we may find ourselves being our own harshest critics, but it’s OK to make a few mistakes along the way. There is no set handbook for parenting children with disabilities — no instructional manual that can truly show you all of what you may experience on your journey. Give yourself the space and time to exist — no matter how you feel. There may be hard days along the way, but even on those days, trust that you are doing all you can for your child or children. Let go of what you can’t change, and tell yourself that it’s OK to struggle. As long as you’re always putting your child’s best interests at heart, you are doing enough. Be kind to yourself always.
6. Celebrate every moment with your child with disabilities.
Celebrate every milestone your child reaches with them. Smile with them, show them how proud you are of them, and praise them because excelling in a world that doesn’t always meet their needs can be difficult and tiring. Walk this road with them regardless of the difficulties you both may face. I’ve celebrated every “first” with my children, and these moments have been some of the most life-changing of my existence.
God chose me to walk a road I thought I would never be ready for, but I’ve learned to navigate the winding road of being a parent of children with disabilities. Raising children with disabilities has profoundly changed me as a person. I know there’s still a long journey ahead for both my children and me, but I’m willing to embrace it all — one day, one moment, and one milestone at a time.
Getty image by MoMo Productions.