I was recently approached by Ashley Taylor from DisabledParents.org about doing a guest post for parents with disabilities. This is what Ashley has to say.
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs on Earth, yet it’s also one of the most stressful. Add a disability into the mix and you can feel overwhelmed before the baby is even born. But there are 4.1 million disabled parents in the United States, so it’s not an impossible task. With careful planning, support and making sure you’re taking care of yourself, parenting will become second nature.
Prepare Your Home
Typical baby proofing includes tasks such as covering the corners of sharp furniture, securing wobbly furniture to the wall, putting safety gates across stairs, adding baby proof locks on cabinets, covering electrical outlets, and placing non-slip mats in the bathroom and bathing areas. But when you are parenting with a disability, it’s a good idea to get the necessary equipment to make things easier on you and more pleasant for your baby — this is in addition to home modifications like a wheelchair ramp and safety bars in the bathroom.
- A side-opening crib with an adjustable height.
- Lightweight pushchairs and buggies that can be attached to a wheelchair and are easy to fold/store.
- Harnesses with easy to use straps and clips and, if applicable, contrasting colors so a visually impaired parent can see all of the adjustable parts.
- Height adjustable high chairs and eating trays that are both lightweight and sturdy, and easy-to-use and clean.
- Flashing alarms and intercom systems so a hearing impaired parent can hear when their baby is crying.
Get the support you need
It’s not uncommon for a parent to want to do everything themselves, but it’s crucial that you are getting the practical support you need as a parent with a disability. Aside from trusted family and friends, there are numerous local and online resources to help you with everything from support groups to actual assistance with parenting tasks like bathing and eating to helping you find the resources to obtain the correct equipment.
Regardless of disability, all parents need to take care of their own mental, physical and emotional needs if they want to provide the best possible care to their children. It’s not uncommon to become overwhelmed and stressed, but many experts agree that a stressed parent makes for a stress child — and turning to drugs and alcohol is dangerous and destructive for everyone. Try some of these techniques to stay balanced:
Do something you enjoy: This could be anything from exercise to reading to taking a bubble bath. Anything goes as long as it gives you pleasure.
Focus on the positive: It’s all too easy to get wrapped up with life’s stressful situations including bills, lack of sleep and conflicting schedules, but take some time to smell the roses and appreciate all the good things in your life — consider writing them down in an affirmation journal.
Plan something to look forward to: Whether it’s planning a family vacation or Sunday brunch at your favorite restaurant, putting something on the calendar for the future helps provide perspective while giving you something to look forward to.
Don’t beat yourself up: You’re not going to get everything right every single time, so don’t be so hard on yourself if you had a less-than-perfect day. Communication is a big part of reducing stress, so keep an open line with your spouse, partner and child regardless of age.
If you’ve been contemplating whether or not to conceive because you have a disability, rest easy knowing that there are millions of parents doing the job. Consider reaching out to support groups prior to having a child so you can put your mind at ease. Your doctor is also there to help prepare you for your exciting journey.
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