2 Universal Special Needs Stresses

Across 1 ocean, 7 time zones, 2 cultures, and in 2 different languages, I discovered 2 universal special needs stressers moms grapple with: time and assurance.

3 universal special needs stresses are alive and well in the western and eastern hemispheres. I know this is true, thanks to 2 groups of wonderful special needs moms–one from central Iowa and the other from Latvia.

For those of you who don’t know where central Iowa is, it’s 6 hours west of Chicago.  For those of you who don’t know where Latvia is, it’s in northern Europe on the Baltic Sea, straight west of Sweden and straight south of Finland.

But enough with the geography.

Let’s get back to those wonderful moms and the universal special needs stresses they mentioned. I met the first group in early June at the Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC), and the second group later that month in Pelchi, Latvia. When the kids were shepherded by their buddies to do fun kid stuff, we moms gathered for some fun mom stuff. Which consisted mainly of talking, crying, laughing, hugging, talking and crying and laughing and hugging some more. To break the ice on the first day, I asked the same question:

What are your greatest challenges as parents of kids with special needs?

Without hesitation, without blinking, without thinking, moms in both groups blurted out the same concerns:


Time to care for their kids with special needs. Time for the other members of their families. Time for themselves. Time for work, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Time to advocate for their children. These moms never have enough time. (Insert crying, laughing, and hugging here.)

These moms need assurance, too. They need assurance that their children with special needs are okay when in the care of others–teachers, day care providers, family members, friends, and co-workers. They want to know that their kids will be okay once their parents are no longer able to care for them. But most of all, as many of them made clear, they want their children to experience the love and care of Jesus, and they want to be reunited in heaven one day with their children perfectly restored and whole. These moms crave blessed assurance. (Insert more crying, laughing, and hugging here.)

Time and assurance. Moms deal with these 2 universal special needs stresses every day and every minute of their lives.

And yet.

When I asked them if they could name any joys about parenting their children, they did so without hesitation, without blinking, and without thinking.

She made me a better person.
My faith is much stronger.
I’m not the same person I was before.
Little things don’t bother me now.
I know what love is now.
He loves me unconditionally.
(Insert crying, laughing, and hugging here.)

Across 1 ocean, 7 time zones, 2 cultures, and in 2 different languages, this is the reality of parenting children with special needs: stress and joy co-exist in the same space.

So when you meet moms of children with special needs, anywhere in the world, and want to lighten their loads, try one of these:

  • Offer to spend time with their children so the moms can tend to pressing tasks or take a break.
  • Help locate resources so moms can provide for their children’s futures.
  • Ask them to tell you something wonderful about their children.
  • Advocate for a special needs ministry at your church so all kids can learn about Jesus.

And always, always, always be prepared to cry with them, laugh with them, hug them, and keep the tissues handy.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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