Here is another excellent piece from “Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep family life happy” produced by the team at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project. This time they have called upon the expertise of Wendy McCarry, manager of The Bluestack Foundation who is herself mum to a child with additional needs.
Parenting a child with additional needs through Covid 19
Make Self Care a Priority
On an aeroplane, the air hostess tells you; that if the pressure falls in the cabin, to put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to your child’s mask. The key message here is that if you are not ok, you will not be able to help your own child.
We DO have a bigger load
As parents of children with additional needs we know how very much more attending to their needs can take from us as carers, than that of non-disabled children. So, you are not being selfish, or self-obsessed by practicing strict SELF-CARE routines. Be kind and generous with yourself remembering you are doing the best you can within the circumstances. You don’t have to do everything by the book, you just have to survive. When you get the first inkling that you are not managing or not in a positive headspace, seek help. Help is out there.
You are not alone
Try to Stay connected with yours and your child’s network. Check in with their
therapists, doctors, teachers, social worker, and any social networks they are in. While the traditional ways of staying in contact like face to face meetings are no longer possible, most organisations are offering virtual connections through whatsapp, zoom, and other social media platforms.
Address the Elephant in the room
While many of our children with additional needs may have compromised expressive communication skills their receptive skills can be excellent. They may be overhearing and exposed to lots of new information on COVID 19, talk of people getting sick and dying and may be afraid and confused. So, while it is important to stay up-todate with what is happening, it is important that a balance is gained between discussing the issues around COVID – 19 and not becoming over obsessed with social media and too much information.
Expect increased Anxiety
Anxiety often comes from a place of loss: our children have lost their routines, their traditional connections and the familiar, stable faces they are used to. An increase in anxiety can often lead to an increase in behaviours that challenge; meltdowns and shutdowns. You are the one consistent feature they have now. Try to be consistent in your approaches/responses. You are their anchor for stability. Your strength is paramount.
Embrace the opportunity
In the greater scheme of things, we have a choice to see this as a huge burden, which is justifiable or see this as a unique opportunity for creating deeper and stronger bonds with our children. We have fewer external distractions, an opportunity to really focus on our families, on being present, on creating an environment that can really strengthen our familial relationships. Play the games, dance to the music, sing the songs, plant the flowers, bake the cakes, take the time to embrace and enjoy the unique interests, gifts and abilities of our children with additional needs.
This too shall pass.
Wendy McCarry. Manager, Bluestack Special Needs Foundation
You can read more of the articles about Parenting through Covid19 here