Dear special needs parents, sometimes it’s okay to do nothing

Dear special needs parents, sometimes it’s okay to do nothing

Upon a prenatal diagnosis or the arrival of a child with special needs, new parents are bombarded with unwanted condolences and all the advice.

Daniel, my son with Down syndrome, at 10-months old with my best friend

“You need to see doctor so-and-so..."

"Try music therapy. It has worked wonders for us.”

“I'm going to give you a book on essential oils for children with special needs...”“Make sure you have the doctors test for this-and-that..”

It is so overwhelming. And, as good parents, we take it all in. We can’t relax until we get on the waitlist for music therapy, or decide we are going to hold off on trying essential oils – but not before reading three books on the pros and cons of using them on children with special needs.

I should say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the advice-giving parents. I have been that parent. We have also benefited immensely from that advice. When I look back on all the advice I had gotten as a new mom of a special needs child, there is one bit of advice I wish I would have gotten.

It is this: sometimes it is okay to just do nothing.

No one ever told me to just enjoy my new baby, or toddler, or child. And, I wish they would have. No one ever told me it was okay to just take a break.

So now, I am telling you. It is okay to take a week, or a month, or a summer, to enjoy life. Take a break to reevaluate what things you want to work on. And, when you get back at it, you will be surprised at your (and your child’s) renewed enthusiasm for progress.

If you spend all your time struggling to meet milestones you will lose sight of why they are important in the first place.

*Daniel and my husband Ryan.

Trust me, I was that mom. And I still am, but I’m also different. I understand how critical it can be to suppress our overwhelming special-needs-parent guilt and just be. Just live. Just spend an entire day watching Sponge Bob and eating marshmallows.

We are stuck in a balance of trying to help our children “be all they can be” and loving them just the way they are. And, that’s hard.

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Images by Whitney Barthel

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

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