Dear Grandparents of Kids with Special Needs,
You are the grandparent of a child with special needs. This makes you awesome, brilliant, remarkable, and treasured! Do you realize you offer our family something that no one else in the world is able to offer?
As a mom of children with special needs, here’s some really important information I want you, my parents and parents-in-law, to know:
1. You give our child sweet unconditional love, and for this I thank you.
Do not ever underestimate how much your unconditional love makes a difference. There was a day my son came to your house, and you had set up a little village of Legos on your living room floor. You had his favorite snack ready, and he got to be King for the Day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. He felt special. You didn’t know he had been picked on at school that day. He needed to soak in your love for him, and so did I.
2. Keep celebrating our successes.
When my child has reached a new milestone, you are the first person I text after my husband. I know you get just as excited as I do. He may not be on track with the rest of his peers, and it may seem little and insignificant to everyone else, but you understand what a big deal it is when he makes it through the first day of school, reads a new word, or makes a friend. Cheer us on extra loud!
3. Accept the diagnosis.
You might be thinking:
- Why do so many kids have all these diagnosis these days? It’s new-fangled.
- People didn’t give kids all these letters and create all these problems years ago!
- Just give the kid a good spanking and send him to bed. That always worked with my kids.
Would you believe me if I told you all those thoughts have run through my head, too?
Our society has changed. Kids watch more screens, eat more unhealthy food, exercise less, and are exposed to more in the environment. Whether this has contributed to our child’s problems or not, I don’t know. I am doing what I can to mitigate these issues. You can argue the problems of it, but the truth is, we all watch more TV and eat more processed food than we did 30 years ago. We are all part of the changes in our culture, so we can’t blame everyone else.
Regardless, we could argue cause and effect forever. All I know is, day in and day out I’m parenting an amazing child with a special diagnosis, and it’s not going anywhere.
Please accept that this is the way it is, and it’s not going to change. Allowing yourself to grieve the diagnosis is a gift to your grandchild. This acceptance is also a gift to me.
4. Be open to different ways of parenting and grandparenting.
While you might not agree with all of my choices, I need your support of me as the parent. Please learn our parenting styles. All kids thrive with consistency, but children with special needs especially crave structure and routine. The more you are able to provide loving boundaries and stay on the same page, the better it is for your grandchild.
This doesn’t mean you have to do things exactly the same way we do. Grandparents are still allowed to to spoil their grandchildren! But please, check in with me first about the best ways. A variance from our routine or a dietary change can cause major meltdowns or even medical issues for us that may take days to correct.
This affords unique opportunities for you. We often skip out on big events or crowded places where other families go. Maybe there is a special grandparent-grandchild routine you can develop that would be a smaller, perfect replacement. If you live far away, we can still make it happen through Skype, Facetime, or some other creative means.
5. Give practical help when possible.
Any practical help you can offer is fabulous! Parenting is tough for everyone, and the special needs of our child add a whole new layer of challenge. I get tired, and then I get beyond tired. Last week when my dryer was broken and you did 6 loads of laundry for me, that was like Christmas morning for me. Watching the kids so I can go to a doctor’s appointment alone is a priceless gift.
6. Your faith in me keeps me going.
Last week, I got tears in my eyes when you shared with your friends about your pride in my parenting abilities. You have seen my shining parenting moments, and you’ve also been there for my no-shower-for-4-days, totally-losing-it-yelling-at-my-kids moments.
Parenting a child with special needs is lacking in positive feedback the majority of the time. Your words of encouragement are a bright light on my down days.
Our children with special needs are often called Warrior Children. They are fighters. They are survivors. They soldier on after adults would have quit. Our children take on every day tasks that their peers do with ease. Our Warrior Children persevere.
Mothers and fathers of special needs children are often called Warrior Mothers and Warrior Fathers. We are fighters. We advocate. We fiercely protect and honor our children. We applaud their victories. Warrior Mothers and Warrior Fathers claim our children as our own.
Grandmothers and grandfathers of special needs children, come and join us. You are Warrior Grandparents. You are fighters. You see the beautiful princesses and handsome princes. You support and you coach and you cheer. Warrior Grandmothers and Warrior Grandfathers give unconditional, unending love.
Dear grandparent, you matter. Never underestimate your value in our family.
A Warrior Mom