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To survive is one thing.  To thrive is another.  Being a special needs parent is not a blip of time that quickly ebbs and flows without much of a hitch.  Far from it.  It’s a lifelong role that will wear you out, twist you up, and throw you down … there are so many hitches!!!  

The good news is you have options.  Here are three simple strategies we can all utilize to succeed as special needs parents right now:

FIRST:  This is your life, so make the choice to love who you are and what you do.  Try this.  Right now, wherever you are, close your eyes for just a couple of seconds to envision your special needs child.  How do you see her in your mind’s eye?  Carefully take in her face and all that makes her unique.  Is she smiling?  Does the sound of her cute giggle melt you?  Can you feel her fingers entwined with yours?  I’m guessing those images make you feel joyful.  This is no trick … it’s a scientific fact.  When we stop and meditate on people we love, our bodies release serotonin.  It’s an instant mood booster.  So whenever your journey seems more than you bargained for, when you’re feeling worn out and pushed beyond your limits, go back to this place.  Hesitate and meditate.  A dose of happiness is always within our reach and is as simple as a choice we can make.

SECOND:  Recognize the difference between a calling and an assignment.  If you are a special needs parent, hear me say this:  You have been called!  It doesn’t matter whether you were given this child through birth or through the gift of adoption, you have been chosen.  When people say to you:  “God only gives special kids to special people”, it’s the truth. Embrace it. Believe it.  Accepting a calling is much more effective than merely tolerating it.   And through acceptance, psychologists guarantee you will find empowerment.  But how?  It’s actually very simple.  Practice by saying it. Speak it out loud with words:  “This is my calling in life and I can do it!”  When our brains hear us speak with authority, our bodies comply by believing it.  The same is true when we speak negatively out loud, so don’t!

THIRD:  Be real.  While you can choose joy and accept the fact that this special needs journey is a calling, you must still give yourself permission to be real.  Every single day, your child is completely dependent upon you … and this may never change.  Perhaps she’ll never move out on her own, drive a car, marry, or juggle her own medical appointments.  The monumental nature of your responsibility sometimes feels overwhelming and the “what if” moments hit you like a mack truck hurling from the sky.  In those times, it’s necessary to be real.  Cry if you need to….hire a babysitter, go out for coffee, schedule a vacation, talk to a counselor, write your thoughts in a journal, confide in a friend, join a church, or take yoga.  Do whatever is right for you, but do something.  Denial can produce depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and a host of other health issues.  So be real.  Be you.  And remember, no one expects you to be perfect.

Don’t we all have the same goal?  Being the best we can be for ourselves and for those who’ve been entrusted to us?  By implementing these three simple strategies, we can take on this challenge and find success.  We are in this for the long haul.  We are in this together.  And our kiddos are worth it!

Just my thoughts!