Single Parenting a Special Needs Child

The single parent has unique needs and stresses, especially if he or she is the sole caretaker of a disabled child. One of the biggest pitfalls is the tendency to neglect your own needs. As Rosemarie Cook says, “We parents of children with special needs often forget how to take care of ourselves. We may be able to get along fine until some major stress or crisis develops. If we continue to ignore our own needs, we will suffer the consequences, mentally or physically or both It’s a natural reaction to want to compensate for the loss in our children’s lives, whether that loss is by death or divorce.” She suggests several ways to cope and keep balance in your life as a single parent:

  • Find a network of support, whether that’s in a kinship or fellowship group at your church, a disability support group or one of the many other kinds available. When the usual support of a spouse is missing, it’s easy to focus even more on your child’s needs and put greater stress on yourself. You many have to rebuild a system of support, which could include a combination of family, friends, church and a monthly or weekly group so you aren’t bearing all the burdens alone. Having others with whom you can discuss options and decisions on things like schooling and medical care is helpful. And making time to go out to lunch or a movie with a friend can provide needed communication and recreation.
  • Work through anger to forgiveness, and deal with unresolved problems. This will help you be healthier emotionally, spiritually and physically, and thus be a better parent.
  • Whenever possible, keep both parents involved in your child’s life, and share in the decision-making process.
  • Learn to rely on God. This is one of the best ways to deal with the many challenges of raising a disabled child single-handedly. “I would be the last person to say I have the answers to life as a single custodial parent,” says Rosemarie. “However, through experience, I’ve found something that keeps me anchored and helps me deal with situations. That something has been a total trust and reliance on God. I find that as I give over total control to God, things work out. I’ve had to make a commitment to daily prayer and time with God. That commitment is the key to learning trust. It’s as if that time is my well from which I can draw strength.”

Rosemarie still has hassles and challenges, information to gather and touch decisions about her child to make. But trusting God has given her a strength that she doesn’t have on her own and the peace that transcends understanding to deal with the present and fact the future with hope.

Excerpted from Extraordinary Kids by Cheri Fuller and Louise Tucker Jones, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House. Copyright © 1997 Cheri Fuller and Louise Tucker Jones. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
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