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10 Tips for the Special Needs Parents Who Just Joined the Club

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Dear New Parents,

Hi! Nice to meet you. Welcome to the club! I’ve been here for almost 30 years.

Although you never planned on joining, we welcome you with love, empathy and a heartfelt hug. Any thoughts or feelings you may have, we probably understand. On this journey you might lose friends, but here you will gain a family. We will always be by your side.

I’ve developed this handy list for you. Feel free to add to it as you see fit. Someday, you’ll be the one helping a scared, new parent.

1. Take a deep breath.

Every now and then you will feel overwhelmed. A few deep breaths will give you some time to recenter and start fresh. When you don’t feel like doing this, it’s probably when you need it most.

2. Set aside time every day for fun.

All children need down time, and so do moms and dads. You will be very busy with therapies, doctor appointments and everything developmental, but take time to relax and have fun. Do this every day – no pressure, just fun. And don’t sneak in anything educational!

3. It’s OK to have cereal for dinner.

It happens. One thing leads to another and suddenly it’s past dinnertime. Some cereals are vitamin fortified, you know, so go for it! Don’t feel guilty and please, don’t throw in vegetables! Think of it this way it’s better than fast food! Enjoy every crunchy spoonful.

4. Don’t feel guilty.

This is a hard one. All parents feel guilty sometimes, but having a child with special needs seems to increases this probability. The truth is, there’s no guidebook for your little one. You’re doing your best. When you feel that guilt feeling creeping in, know this: Nobody’s perfect and nobody will do a better job than you.

5. Don’t live in “What if” world.

“What if he could talk?” “What if she never walks?” “What if, what if, what if?” Believe me, nothing comes of this. Take one day at a time and keep doing what you’re doing, which leads me to the next tip…

6. Take one day at a time.

This is very important. Don’t spend hours and days thinking about the future. Each day prepares you for the next, and whatever you might be worrying about today will probably never happen. Instead, go hug that beautiful little one and enjoy this moment. Go, now!

7. Laugh.

C’mon. There’s always something to laugh about. While frequently things will happen that are not funny in the moment, you can sometimes look back and laugh. Well, look back now! If something is happening now you’ll laugh about later, why wait? It’ll make your days so much more fun!

8. It’s OK to have a messy house.

Kids only stay little for a short while. Before you know it, you’ll have all the time in the world to clean up the house. Also, refer back to #4.

9. Don’t take things personally.

Here’s the truth. People are going to say things or do things related to your child that will make you sad and angry. While it’s hard not to react, their behavior is a reflection of them — it has nothing to do with your baby. Stand tall, Mama! Also know there are many, many more people out there who are really nice and genuinely care.

10. Pat yourself on the back.

Do this every day. You’re doing a great job.

And don’t forget: When you look back, you’ll want to remember the good stuff. Now is your chance to create it.

With love,

A Mom Who’s Been Through It

A version of this post originally appeared on The Heartful Mom

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Originally published: June 30, 2015
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