Often, when you’re in the trenches of parenting children with major special needs, the most important relationship you have begins to suffer. How do you keep your marriage healthy in the midst of very difficult circumstances with your children?
I met my husband 20 years ago this winter. I saw him across the lobby of the student center at our college campus. I hoped he would notice me and when he did I shook his hand and smiled the warmest smile I could muster on that cold January evening. He asked me out a few weeks later and I was excited to get to know him. From that moment on, we enjoyed spending as much time together as possible. We studied at the library, took walks around campus, visited the art museum where admission was free. We didn’t need to do anything fancy. Time together was all we wanted.
*Editors Note- This is a guest post by Jessica Graham. She is a mother of three kids, all of whom have been adopted and two of whom have significant special needs. Her book Beautiful Paradox: Musings, Marvelings and Strategies of a Special Needs Parent
is available on Amazon
and is free September 15-16, 2016.
As foster and adoptive parents, many of us are also parenting children with major special needs. Many of us are constantly looking back, before we began this journey, wishing someone would’ve told us what to expect.
Being a parent to a child with medical or developmental needs is as much like being a parent to a typically developing child as it is different. Parenting is hard no matter who your kid is – and no matter who you are. Also, no matter how much you prepare, experience will be your greatest teacher. But often for those of us who became special needs parents through adoption or foster care, there is an underlying frustrating – why didn’t someone tell me how it really is!
*Editor’s Note- This is a guest post by our good friend Lisa Qualls. She is a writer, speaker, mom of 12, and the creator of Thankful Moms
, where she writes about motherhood, adoption, faith, and grief. Lisa is a mom by birth and adoption. Along with her husband Russ, their adoption journey has been marked by joy as well as challenges of trauma and attachment. You can visit her blog here
, and connect with her on Facebook here
Sometimes the adoption journey can leave us questioning our ability as parents. But the trials may lead to personal growth that we never thought was possible.
I was pouring a cup of coffee when my friend called. She asked if I had a minute to talk and when I answered, “Yes,” her resolve quickly faded and she began to cry. She told me about a conflict with her newly adopted son. Despite her best intentions, she was convinced she had failed to handle it well.
It’s extremely challenging to raise children from difficult places, who often speak and behave out of their trauma. How do you keep from losing it when you’re pushed to the edge by your child on a daily basis?
We are parenting multiple children with special needs. Out of those special needs we often see extreme behavioral shifts. We find ourselves pushed to the limits, and beyond, on a weekly basis. We haven’t always been able to keep our cool and peacefully navigate the pitfalls of raising difficult children. We understand this battle all to well. It’s been a process for us, as parents, as much as it has been for our children.
As human beings we have a defense mechanism that we default to when our world is in chaos. It’s a safety net when our children, our marriage, or our family is out of control. However, it’s not healthy. There’s a better way to live.
My dad yelled a lot when I was a kid. When I say yell, I mean yell! He had no volume control. I can still remember, vividly, some of his outbursts. Most of the time, they were over petty things.. A light was left on in one of the bedrooms. It was summer and a window was accidentally left open, letting air conditioned air out. I used a hammer and left it on the picnic table out back instead of putting it back in the garage.
We’ve often been asked how we made it through 9 years of foster parenting and 14 years as adoptive parents. Our answer is simple: We have a great support system of people who help keep us going. But how do you find a support system like this?
“You’re going to be alright…this is going to be alright,” our friend said to us. “I know it feels like a dead-end street but there’s hope. I’m here for you!”
She was right. More importantly, she was there. Those were two things we were certain of. In our darkest moment on the journey, she looked at us with eyes of compassion, a spirit that understood, and a gentle smile that said “I get it.” We found the strength we needed to get up and keep moving.
We’ve often said that we couldn’t have scripted our life any better than God has. We’re reminded of this every time we look at our children with special needs.
It’s early in the morning and everyone is still fast asleep. I sit down at my desk and begin typing as I often do. The only sound I hear is the quiet hum of our AC unit just outside my office window. On a morning like this I’m glad I invested in an efficient system that doesn’t wake the entire house up. For the most part, it’s still dark out. The sun has barely begun making it’s case for the day.