Relationship Advice Part 1 of 3: To Parents Dealing with a Child’s New Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis
Remember you are not alone
When relationships change, whether it be with a spouse, parent, sibling, best friend or co-worker you often feel alone, beside yourself without the support system you once knew - the support system you expected would always be there.
You may feel like you have no one to turn to, but you are stronger than feel and smarter than you realize.
The changes in relationships wasn't about you or your child with special needs.
It was about those people in your life who could not make the transition with you into the life filled with disabilities, it was foreign to them. They didn't know what to say or what to do, so they sped off into the sunset.
This is so common and you must remember you are never alone in those feelings. It is okay to grieve the loss of relationships that existed prior to your life with a child who has special needs. Take time to take a deep breath and keep going.
Family members or friends may not know what to do around a child with special needs. Don't be afraid to be honest and tell them I can't attend a birthday party because of our child's sensory challenges, or go to a large event due to your child being medically fragile and more susceptible to germs and illness.
Don't be afraid that you'll offend those around you with honesty. That is a great teaching tool for the relationships in your life and it will help others learn to understand they need to support you in different ways than before.
Focusing on your child
Sometimes you just can't change anyone but yourself.
So what grandma refuses to speak to you anymore because she wishes you'd just give your child with special needs away for adoption? Your best friend insists your child intentionally hit her and doesn't understand the term "spastic movements."
You will spend more of your energy on trying to get those around you to understand than caring for your child who really needs you.
With time they might join the bandwagon of support, but if they don't put your energy where it's most needed... on that child who needs every ounce of your tender-loving care.
Making new connections
You might feel like the world is over as you know it. In some respects it is, but the good news is good things await you on the horizon.
New people will inevitably come into your life. I think it's rather planned that way. You might strike up a conversation with a stranger in the grocery store who turns out to be a speech therapist that you just love, or you'll see a kind person at the pharmacy who notices you have a child similar to theirs and you'll be best friends for the next twenty years.
Sometimes you just shouldn't run after the people who walked out of your life, it leaves room for some beautiful new relationships to enter.
Feeling down because you no longer have close knit friendships any longer?
It's okay sometimes the best pick-me up is spreading joy. It can be the smallest of good intentions.
Don't let the relationships that have changed in your life dull your sparkle. You have a child with special needs that is counting on you. Donate a piece of equipment that no longer fits your child to someone in need or give the handful of change sitting in your car to a homeless man on the street.
Remind yourself that you are worthy of being loved and receiving love just as much as your child with special needs is.
A part of your heart may always long for your child's grandparents to accept your child with special needs.
You may wonder how you can force them to participate in your life and the life of your child with special needs. Unfortunately there is nothing you can really do if a person chose not to be a part of your life - especially as a result of having a child with special needs.
You must find peace within yourself, to know that you did all you could and you have to march forward with or without those who were once in your life.
They say the best revenge is often living well. Don't let others know they've gotten you down.
Go about your life the best you can, they'll either join you or they won't. But old relationships have a unhealthy way of bringing you down.
You might reminisce about all the good times, the close knit bond you had with your closest friends... make them only wish they stuck around in your life!
Finding a new normal
Life is inevitably full of new challenges, endless hardships and difficult days when you have a child with special needs.
Finding a new normal can help with the adjustment of new relationships and putting to bed the previous relationships that no longer exist. Incorporate relationship changes in the overhaul that is now your life.
You'll find that sometimes instead of needing your ten closest friends at a party that you only need just one person to be that solid rock for you.
Strength in partnership
Don't forget to keep your spouse or partner close to you always.
Divorce rates are high and common amongst families facing special need challenges. Make sure that you focus on each other's pains, take time to talk about the joys, your dreams for each other and your child with special needs. Feel like you're on the same page with doctors, specialists, therapists, and care providers that are in your child's life.
Connect beyond just being married or in a relationship with your partner. You both need to be the strongest team you can be - it's going to be a long hard ride and that will be your sidekick through all the good and the bad bumps in the journey.
Make new goals
When relationships dissolve it often helps to set new goals. Seek out a parental support group that includes similar special needs to your own child.
Find a common bond with new people. If you have a relationship that is hanging on the edge that you feel may be salvageable try extending the olive branch one more time. Make it your goal to try even if you fail you can say you gave it your all.
Challenge yourself to talk to the grocery checker about your child with special needs when they ask who all the pudding you are buying is for.
You never know that person might just have a family member with special needs and you've made an instant new friend.
Relationships can be complicated regardless of having a child with special needs. When long standing relationships dissolve it's painful, but not necessarily a reflection of anything you did wrong. Go easy on yourself and know that new people and new connections could just be a heartbeat away.