Special needs parenting often gets a bad rap. Here are 10 things I've learned to love about raising a child with special needs.

Special needs parenting often gets a bad rap on social media. Posts about the complexity and stress associated with raising kids who have special needs are everywhere and can crowd out what’s good about parenting our kids. So in honor of Valentine’s Day, this post is dedicated to what I’ve learned to love about special needs parenting since our son was born in 1982.

Top Ten Things I Love about Special Needs Parenting

10. Special needs parenting changed my husband’s career path and mine too. We lived 70 miles from the closest hospital when our son was born with a medical condition. So my husband became an EMT. That training motivated him to become a nurse. When I launched my writing and speaking career after 25 years as a teacher, anything I wrote about special needs parenting resonated with readers and led to 5 books about raising kids with special needs. We love the way special needs parenting has changed our careers for the better.

9.  Special needs parenting shows that we are not in ultimate control of our children. Parents of typical kids usually learn this during the teen years. They struggle to let go of their children. My husband and I learned we weren’t in control the day our son was born. The lesson stood us in good stead during his trying teen years.

8. Special needs parenting teaches us to be grateful.  Grateful for the privilege of raising children-even when our days with them are few, grateful to the medical community, grateful for the kindness of friends and family and strangers, grateful for crazy family fun, grateful for difficult times, grateful for every the grace God pours into our lives.

7.  Special needs parenting increases empathy and humility. We know the heartache of lost dreams and of watching our children struggle. We know the joy of new dreams and watching our children make progress. We know how to come alongside new parents with practical help and physical hugs. And we are humbled by our ability to hurt and rejoice with them.

6.  Special needs parenting changes our priorities. We learn very early on to cherish the small things–rocking our babies, playing games with toddlers, picking our kids up from school, listening while our teens vent–and to view them as the important and eternal things that deserve the majority of our time and energy.

5.  Special needs parenting strengthens our relationships. It can bond husbands and wives who survive the fire together. It can strengthen families and church families whose members learn to prop one another up when weary. It can deepen friendships with those committed to being true, rather than fair weather, friends.

4.  Special needs parenting forges new friendships and a new community. We are members of a club we never wanted to join. But once initiated into it, we develop unique and valuable friendships with amazing people we would not have known otherwise. We become part of a community we love to call “home.”

3.  Special needs parenting increases our ability to value life. We know that every life, no matter how short or compromised, can change the people touched by it. We know this because we have been changed because of our children’s lives.

2.  Special needs parenting changes our perspective on death. Many of us have watch a beloved child struggle with pain every day of life, struggle to breathe, struggle to find energy to smile when they see us. Those who’ve seen these things no longer fear death. We know death released our children from pain as God walked them from this life into the next. Parents who are followers of Christ rest in His promise of a new, pain-free life for our children, in His presence.

1.  Special needs parenting can grow our faith. While raising our kids, we can do 1 of 2 things. We can either reject a God who allows our children to be born with special needs and shoulder our burdens alone. Or we can hold fast to His promises, trust that He is active in our circumstances even when we can’t see Him, and cling to His hand. My husband and I made the second choice and after 3 decades of seeing God work in amazing, unexpected ways, our faith continues to grow.

What Do You Love about Special Needs Parenting?

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

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Special needs parenting often gets a bad rap. Here are 10 things I've learned to love about raising a child with special needs.