Special Needs Children Have Parents with Needs, too
Special Needs Children may have been born premature, or diagnosed with a medical condition or disability. Sometimes it is a crisis that may be lift-threatening. Other times, it means facing a chronic condition and learning to cope as positively and effectively as possible, both for parents and for the child.
Parents of Special Needs children face a set of extra stresses and emotions, which often go neglected as they work hard and do their best for their child. They will experience grief (which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), anxiety, guilt, sleep problems, feelings of isolation leading to relationship problems, as well as physical and mental exhaustion.
Parents of special needs children face a unique array of challenges. They must care for their child, who often has crucial medical, physical, and developmental needs. As they do so, they may experience an array of often-uncomfortable feelings associated with the shattering of their dream for who their child might have been. This is a complicated task that can leave them overwhelmed physically, emotionally drained and at times frightened.
The parent’s symptoms often go unnoticed and untreated because the focus is on the child’s needs. Often no one asks the parent how they are coping; instead professionals focus on the urgent needs of the child. Parents often suppress these feelings believing they are weak or “bad” parents if they allow themselves to express how they feel.
Family members are grieving about the difficulties of their special needs child, each in their own way and time. Parents and others will often be at a different phases in the process of grieving. This adds to parents and family members feeling isolated, and leads to stumbling blocks in communication.
Parents who have premature babies or parents who have witnessed their children go through invasive medical procedures, and or life threatening medical crisis, may additionally experience symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. This may include nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, anxieties and fears. Not understanding the basis for these symptoms can be frightening.
The good news is that experiencing and sharing the feelings in a safe supportive environment is what is needed to heal and grow. EMDR Therapy can benefit parents by helping them let go of stuck negative thoughts and feelings. Thus, parents can learn new perceptions of themselves. They can discover strengths they never knew they had and develop new ways to cope and communicate. Please reach out for experienced help today. I am a Certified EMDR Therapist and look forward to your call.
Nancy Deutsch, LCSW, BCD> Nancy is a San Diego Certified EMDR Therapist Specializing in serving Parents with Special Needs Children. Her office is located in San Diego, Central Area near Hillcrest and Banker’s Hill. Please visit her Profile Page on this website by clicking on her name.