FAMILY DISSONANCE IN FAMILIES WITH ATYPICAL CHILDREN
Having an atypical child affects the entire family system. It affects how parents interact with each other, how parents interact with each of their children, how siblings interact with each other, and how the family interacts with extended family members.
Feelings of Grief
You may experience grief when you first realize that you have an atypical child. You will be reconciling a new reality and having to let go of certain elements of the relationship you expected to have with your child. Some parents experience sadness or jealousy and resentment towards families with typical children.
No Fault Zone
Parents need to remember that your child’s struggles are nobody’s fault. It is important not to blame each other for your child’s challenges. You will need to be open and honest about your feelings toward your son/daughter so that you can help each other be the best parent you can be. Having an attitude of acceptance of your child’s issues will enable you to help your child succeed and make progress and growth.
It’s really about the family learning to adjust to the needs, strengths, capacity, and challenges of the people they love living with an atypical child. Families sometimes push their child to do something that the child isn’t ready for or doesn’t want. For example, parents often ask how they can make their child have a friend. You will need to understand that relationships take time and that special needs children may not fully understand the intricacies of relationships and friendships. Play group therapy may be a useful tool for your child where he/she will be provided with guided experiences with other children. In these groups your child will practice interacting in a positive way and learn how to engage with other children individually as well as in groups. You will need support and coaching in this area.
Emotional and Physical Demands
Parents of children with special needs are often exhausted and frequently become depressed. Their reserves of time and resources for self-care are even more depleted than those of parents of typical children. Yet their need for refueling is also greater. To be sustained through the marathon of supporting your atypical child it is essential that parents attend to their own needs. Having a trusted/non-judgmental network of friends and family can be helpful. Finding time to spend with your spouse away from family issues can be restorative. Finally, joining a support group of parents with similar challenges will provide a much-needed outlet for discussion as well as information.
When parents are open, honest, and forthcoming with each other they will find that they can form a team that will support their child as well as their relationship with their child and themselves. This type of team work is not always as easy as it sounds, however, finding a trustworthy, capable, and knowledgeable guide can ease your burden.