For dads of special needs children, Father’s Day can be a poignant one. Often there are no presents or hugs for these fathers. And yet, they continue to cherish whatever relationship they can have with their children.
“Fathering a special needs child requires inner strength, patience and extraordinary love for one’s son or daughter. Often times, these amazing dads are overlooked for their contributions,” says Deanna Picon, founder of Your Autism Coach LLC and author of “The Autism Parents’ Guide to Reclaiming Your Life.” “So, on this special day, let’s acknowledge those who give so much of themselves.”
Fathers, she says, can apply these tips on Father’s Day and really every day throughout the year:
- Manage your health. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially with everything on your plate. Make time to eat properly, get at least six hours of sleep and exercise. Hitting the gym is an effective way to work off stress and stay fit. A simple walk around the neighborhood can clear your mind.
- Be yourself. Don’t allow your child’s disability to define you. Like any parent, much of your life is going to be centered on your children, but that doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the hobbies, events and activities you enjoy doing. Keep in touch with friends and family.
- Give yourself permission to enjoy. Don’t feel guilty for having a good time, even if it’s only once in a while. Ask a close friend or relative to watch your child for a few hours, so you can go to the billiards hall to shoot some pool with your buddies. Go on a fishing trip. It will be beneficial to unload the weight of your responsibilities for a short time.
- Reward yourself. Appreciate the little things in your life each week, like inviting the guys over to watch the game or for a cookout. You could also buy some tools for your workshop or attend an auto show.
- Accept unspoken praise and appreciation. Your spouse or partner may be too overwhelmed in the midst of all the challenges the two of you face to tell you how much he or she cares. Your special needs child may be unable to communicate properly how grateful he or she is for your acceptance and love. Nevertheless, know that your family appreciates you and the difference you make in their lives.
- Take a bow! You stepped up and accepted the challenges of raising a child with special needs. Because of your determination and advocacy, your son or daughter will have a better life. That’s something worth patting yourself on the back for. – edited by Georgette Gouveia
And for more on autism, see WAG’s article on the organization Autism Speaks, http://www.wagmag.com/autism-speaks-and-suzanne-and-bob-wright-ensure-the-world-listens/.