Managing Mixed Emotions When Our Kids with Disabilities Go Back to School
Sending our children with special needs back to school can raise different emotions in us. Some of these emotions can cause pain, stress, or guilt. Let’s examine some emotions commonly experienced by disability parents and how to process them in healthy ways.
Grief: As a special needs parent, you will likely experience a special kind of chronic grief throughout your child’s life, and the start of the school year can trigger a wave of sorrow. With this new milestone, you may be sad that your child is developmentally behind other children, is not as independent, or has difficulty making friends.
Fear: As special needs parents, we are sometimes afraid that other kids will treat our children meanly or take advantage of them. We might fear that our children will have a medical emergency or become injured, and heaven forbid, that they might be mistreated by their teachers or other school professionals. It makes sense that you might be experiencing some anxiety and feeling overprotective as your child begins a new school year.
Jealousy: Watching other parents drop off their typically developing, seemingly healthy children might spark some envy, maybe even anger in your heart. To be honest, attending the open house night and watching all the other thirteen-year-old girls huddle together sent a pang of jealousy throughout my body. We might even fantasize about having a “normal life” at times.
Managing Your Hard Emotions
Parents caring for children with special needs experience those hard emotions. It’s normal to feel this way. Yet, becoming stuck in them can become unhealthy. These steps can help you process your feelings:
- Reflect on the past couple of days. Look for reasons why you might be feeling this way. Sometimes there’s a specific event that prompts our emotions, other times it’s difficult to identify the trigger.
- Allow yourself to feel and grieve. Have a good cry. Observe yourself experiencing your difficult emotions. Let yourself just be for a bit. Be tender, supportive, and accepting of your painful emotions.
- Reframe your situation. Is there a way to look at your circumstances differently or more hopefully? If not, that’s okay too.
- Return to now. Come back to the present. Focus fully on your day, one moment at a time.
Managing Positive Emotions
Sometimes even positive emotions can be scary, but I encourage you to let go of the fear of positive emotions even as you honor your hard ones.
Hope: Choose an optimistic outlook, expecting a good year, and focus on how your child will grow.
Joy and Gratitude: Celebrate your child’s season and express thankfulness for their life. List out your child’s amazing qualities and all the ways that they’ve made progress so far.
I pray blessings on your children as they begin a new school year, and blessings on you as you begin managing mixed emotions when our kids go back to school. You’re invited to use the comment box to share what you’re experiencing as your child goes back to school.
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