It is a very difficult experience when a handicapped child appears in the family. It is somewhat a revolution for each member of the family. The parents don’t expect that the child may suffer from a disease when they are looking forward to the moment of birth. Sometimes, they don’t know what to do when they find out about it.
Parents, whose healthy child experiences injury or trauma that makes it disabled, are in a similar situation. What is more, a child’s disease often strains the domestic budget, especially when one of the parents has to resign from work in order to look after the child.
Parents of disabled children go through the following stages:
The information that the child is not healthy may be devastating – the initial disbelief turns into negation. Parents think that their child simply can’t be ill. The feelings that accompany them are fear, depression, helplessness, disbelief and sometimes rage.
Helplessness and hopelessness felt by many parents grow to be difficult to handle, so the parents, overwhelmed by their emotions, fall into depression. Systematic care and looking after the child soothe the parents and bring them peace of mind.
3. Stage of apparent adjustment
The parents often desperately seek a solution to the whole situation – they come up with different thoughts and ideas driven by their defence mechanism. The parents try to find someone to blame for their child’s disability what helps them relieve their own guilt; often they reject the idea that their child is disabled. The actions of the parents can be chaotic during this stage, and their beliefs may lead them to think that a visit to a hypnotist, a bioenergotherapist or a herbalist might help. When all the options run out the parents often give up the fight.
4. Stage of constructive adjustment
It is a positive stage where the parents start to work with their child on improving its life. In this stage parents learn how to take joy in spending time with their child. They also discover that the child gives them its unreserved love, and that makes them happy. They also seek solutions that will make their child happy.
The transition between the stages is not really clear, and the boundaries in-between are fluent. One needs to sacrifice a lot for the disabled child, often resigning from satisfying one’s needs. A lot depends on the level and type of the child’s disability – things are different depending on the level of child’s independence, whether the disability is mental or physical, and whether the child needs constant care or not. Much depends on the associated diseases accompanying the disability, especially those which cause the child and the parents to suffer.
Disabled child = a little person in great need
Looking after a disabled child is a challenge which one faces day by day. The carer always needs to keep in mind that he or she is looking after a little person, who was not as lucky as other children, but can’t be deprived of its rights. The child has the right to
- fell loved the way it is;
- develop as much as it is possible in its condition.
A parent who will understand its child and allow it to be independent as much as possible, will teach it self-acceptance, and will plant a positive attitude and immunity in its mind, giving the child unbelievable strength. Disability causes fear, shame and embarrassment. One needs to fight those feelings.
NOTE – it is important not to focus on the child’s disability, but on its potential. Even the most handicapped children make progress, provided that someone works on their development on a regular basis. Those little improvements bring joy and motivate to further work. It is often the case that the expensive and long lasting rehabilitation doesn’t bring much improvement, but even the slightest progress is a great reward for the entire struggle.
A handicapped child, despite the challenges it brings upon the family, can be a source of great joy and satisfaction. Bringing up such a child teaches how to be humble, patient, sensitive, emphatic and devoted. The child repays the effort with its unrestricted love and affection.
If you are raising a handicapped child, remember…
You have the right to feel what you feel – try to experience these emotions in a conscious way and try to use them constructively.
Regardless the level and kind of your child’s disability remember that it is a little person – try to perceive it as a child, not as a handicapped child.
You need some time for yourself, even if you are trying to deny it. Ask someone to look after the child for you and do something just for yourself.
If you need psychological or legal help, or the help of a professional caregiver (or any other form of help) remember that there are associations, which are there to help you. Using their help is not a sign of helplessness, but strength.
You are stronger than your child – don’t take advantage of that fact, but use it to your child’s advantage. If your feelings overwhelm you – do not take it out on your child.
If you have other children who are healthy, remember that they are also in a difficult position. Healthy siblings of a handicapped child also need your attention, love and care. Try to find some time to be there for the rest of your family.
You are not alone – there are many associations gathering parents of handicapped children and you can find many Internet forums where people, who are in a similar situation, share their experience. Maybe getting in touch with them will help you with your difficult situation. Maybe your experience will help someone else.
Your child loves you in an unreserved way – remember that the only things it requires to be happy are your acceptance, your presence, your care and the sense of security that you give to your child.
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