Parenting is the toughest job there is. Parenting special needs kids is even tougher! As the parent of two special needs kids (Tourettes, Bipolar and ADHD), I remember getting up every morning when they were young and wondering how I was going to drum up the energy to cope. It wasn’t just the endless doctors, psychiatrist and therapy appointments we had to attend. I was also in daily contact with the boys’ schools to ensure reasonable accommodations for them. Of course, there were also soccer, karate and choir practices to juggle. How did I manage it all? Fortunately I was able to stay home with them for 15 years. It wasn’t what I originally planned for my career when I first became married but I really didn’t have a choice. Parenting was my full time job!
My sons are older now (20 and 18 years old) and I can look back and reflect on my first 15 years as a mom. First of all, I am pleased to say I survived with my sanity intact. I have also become a very confident and strong-willed person. But, most importantly, I am incredibly proud of the young men they have become.
My best piece of advice for parents of special needs kids? Choose your battles wisely! If you try to correct all of the behaviours that are annoying at once, you are setting yourself up for failure and your kids for frustration. There’s no point in worrying that everyone else’s kids have excellent table manners and yours don’t. The table manners are simply not important compared to dealing with the rage attacks. So what if you have to bribe your kids just to get them to sit still in the car and behave in the grocery store. Trying to minimize the meltdowns and battles is worth it. Your kids won’t wear socks with seams or any clothes that have too many buttons and are itchy. So buy different clothes. This isn’t spoiling your kids. It’s accommodating their special needs.
What is the most important parenting skill for parents of special needs kids? Your children desperately need you to be their best advocate. I fought tirelessly for my sons to get the help they needed from the medical system and the education system. That effort has paid off. My youngest son is currently finishing second year university and my second child starts first year university in September.
Do you have special needs children or family members? Have you learned some important things along the way that you can share with the rest of my readers?
Karyn Climans is the entrepreneurial spirit behind Tail Wags Helmet Covers, a company devoted to encouraging children and adults to wear their safety helmets. Karyn suffered a serious ski accident but fortunately she was wearing her ski helmet. The helmet saved her life! One goal of her company is to help prevent unnecessary injuries and it is her passion for safety awareness along with her imaginative flair that are the key ingredients for Tail Wags’ success.