Parents of a mentally challenged child face a uniquely challenging lifestyle, filled with small triumphs sandwiched between feelings of guilt and exhaustion. While there are advocacy groups and resources to help parents of special-needs kids, there is still much adversity to overcome. Feelings of guilt, stress on your marriage, educational challenges and exhaustion are major factors that bring an extra dynamic to the family of a mentally challenged child.
1. Feelings of Guilt
Even the most health-conscious and diligent parents of special-needs children find ways to blame themselves for the child's challenges. These feelings of guilt can impair a parent’s ability to care for their special-needs child, or for other children in the household. Guilt can significantly lower a parent’s ability to enjoy life, and it can negatively affect relationships with friends and family. Parents who are battling these negative feelings can gain relief through counseling or by seeking help and companionship from a support system of friends, family and fellow parents of special-needs children.
2. Marriage Stress
Sometimes, one parent wants to devote heroic efforts to help his child with special needs while the other parent may opt to take the opposite approach. According to Gary Direnfeld, Registered Social Worker and author of "Marriage Rescue: Overcoming Ten Deadly Sins in Failing Relationships," caring for a mentally challenged child can put a tremendous strain on a marriage. Even if both parents agree on an approach to caring for their child, the exhaustion or feelings of guilt can undermine their relationship. The strain of being in a troubled marriage can compound the stress of caring for a mentally challenged child.
3. Educational Challenges
Parents of a special-needs child face myriad challenges when it comes to their child's education. Remember that you are your child's most important advocate. American public school systems have come a long way toward meeting the diverse needs of mentally challenged children, but there is no substitute for parental involvement in a child’s education. For example, some children need a positive behavior intervention plan to prevent disruptive behavior in the classroom as well as a crisis plan to be used only in an emergency should his behavior become dangerous.
No matter how much a parent may love his child with special needs, the constant effort of caring for her can be mentally and physically exhausting, and financially draining. If your child requires special medical care, some insurance companies will cover the cost of care at home, which can help cut down on multiple trips to medical offices during the week. Reach out to advocacy groups that may be able to help with the financial and emotional burdens of caring for your child. Accepting the offer of companionship or babysitting from family and friends can also make caring for a special-needs child less overwhelming.
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