Parenting children with additional needs in a socially distant season
Care for the Family has an incredible Additional Needs Support team, that includes many amazing befrienders, all of whom are parents of children with additional needs.
We asked some of them to share their experiences of this season so far. You may see some similarities in your own situation, or find their experiences help you to support friends who have children with additional needs.
GAIL: “With my son being at school normally, I am just not used to the amount of time I have to spend with him. He finds it very difficult to be on his own so I am finding it relentless. I am exhausted. I am trying to find things that we can do side by side. For instance, while he is drawing I am doing one of my calming colouring books. I have to explain that we are together but doing different things. Even ten minutes like this gives me the energy to keep going.”
JO: “I am a single mum and usually have amazing support from family and church friends. I am maintaining normal bedtime routines and video calls of bedtime stories with Nana, Grandma and others gives me five minutes to grab a hot cuppa.
Looking after Lilly is all down to me and that feels very full-on. I asked a couple of my friends from church to cook us a meal, they were delighted to help and at the end of a long day is a real treat for me.”
JULIA: “I have four children (ages 7-15) to home school. My youngest son has a range of additional needs so is used to the support of a full-time classroom assistant. My husband is working at home too so the house is bursting at the seams. We get up, and get dressed.
Every morning we come together as a family and use a thankfulness journal to record three things that were good about yesterday, three things we are thankful for, and three things that would make today a great day.
I have discovered that schoolwork with my son with additional needs is best done little and often with big breaks. I use motivators such as ‘now’ and ‘then’.
We will do this work now, and then you can have a snack, watch TV, play outside etc. We have not got all the work done that was sent home from school but I choose not to get stressed about this.”
REBECCA: “I am working from home with two teenagers with autistic spectrum conditions. My daughter has extreme social anxiety so my challenge is to support her to continue to have contact with the outside world rather than withdrawing completely into her own shell.
I am a single parent so I have no respite from them having sole responsibility for their work, and mental health.
I try to spend a good chunk of time with each of them on a one to one basis, doing something they have chosen. This has been really good for all of us and helps to keep the peace between them.
I grab time to myself when I can, taking five minutes here and there so I can re-charge my own batteries without feeling guilty for taking ‘me’ time.
I use Zoom to connect with my mum and sister, walking the dog gets me out of the house and I use WhatsApp, Skype, emails, texts and phone calls to keep from feeling too isolated.”
BEA: “I have five adopted children, all with additional needs, whom I home educate. In a 24/7 world with kids with additional needs you have to set achievable targets and accept your limitations. My kids need to know what is happening and when, so I am usually very definitive.
I underestimated how unsettling it would be for them to have Daddy working in the dining room and not coming home at the end of each day. Their regular routine has been disrupted and they are the most difficult version of themselves.
We didn’t really have any time to prepare them for this new norm and that has caused stress. I have made a few errors of judgement requiring obedience when they needed space, choice and time. I am learning to cut both myself and them some slack.
Am I worried my kids are going to regress in this area of socialisation? Yes I am but then I have to find some perspective. Their mental and emotional well-being comes first, we’ll catch up with the rest later.”
Find out more about the work Care for the Family do to support those who have children with additional needs.
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