Coping, Being a Special Needs Parent, and Taking Care of Yourself

cope, a verb

1. to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success
2. to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully
or in a  calm or adequate manner

When you have a child with special needs, you’re going to need to cope. Whether it be coping with a meltdown over a change in routine, an upcoming surgery, a meeting with your child’s school, or just another day in the life. It’s how we get through the hard times, it is how we face the uncertain times. It may be acute coping (in the moment situations) or chronic coping (the everyday worries and issues related to your journey). What works for one person, may not work for another. What works for one situation, may not work for the next. Some basic techniques can help get us all through the toughest of times…

Coping_Taking Care of Yourself_Special NeedsDon’t be afraid to cry. We cry because we’ve been too strong for too long. And that’s okay. Sometimes a good cry can change your entire outlook. It can help ground you. It can help with seeing the big picture, finding the silver lining. And frankly, we all just need to cry sometimes.

Find something to lose yourself in, even for short periods of time. Pick up a book and read. Get involved with a charity. Volunteer in your community. Watch crappy television. You face reality everyday…take time for yourself doing something that YOU want to do.

Find faith in something, anything, so that you can draw upon it when you need it. Whether it be God, guardian angels, your family, or something entirely different, find something to put your faith in. Having something to believe in, having something to draw upon for strength…it helps makes coping just a little bit easier.

Share your story, people really do care and they can take something away from it to help them in their own lives. To learn that something you’ve gone through, something you’ve lived, has touched or inspired someone can warm the heart and help you carry on. Even if sharing your story helps only one person, you’ve made a difference to someone.

Find a happy place, no matter where or what it is, and go there as often as possible. It could be the beach. It could be a local park. It could be volunteering with babies in your local hospital nursery. It could be a special spot in your own home. It could be somewhere you go with just the simple act of closing your eyes. A happy place can lighten your mood and help you leave your troubles behind, even if only for a short time.

Surround yourself with positive people you love and who love you; build an awesome support systemCan you get through the tough times alone? Of course. But it is a whole lot easier when you have friends and family surrounding you. Don’t be afraid to call on them either because they are most likely already trying to figure out how they can help you. Try to eliminate negative people in your life…you have enough to deal with and shouldn’t let others get you down!

Take care of yourself first. Find coping mechanisms that work for you. Try your hardest to eliminate extra stress in your life. Visit your doctor and dentist regularly. Because…who will take care of your special needs child (or whatever you are coping with) if you aren’t around?

Look to the one or the thing that is making coping necessaryThis might be the most important coping mechanism of all. Your special needs child is blessing your life in so many ways. One look and you’ll remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you must cope and move on.

Refer back to definition of coping above…the key word in the definition is “success.” We all cope, it’s just something ya gotta do. And we all cope differently, whatever works for you. But coping successfully takes patience, love, support, strength, and faith. I don’t know that I always cope in the right way, but I continue to survive. So I must be doing something right.


Amy Hendershott
Amy is a survey researcher who resides with her family in North Carolina, including her two beautiful girls, Katie and Kennedy. After Kennedy was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, awareness and acceptance of craniofacial syndromes became one of her passions. She truly believes that every child is beautiful, no matter what their differences might be. Her other passions include reading, the beach, and her wiener dog, Chelsea. You can read more on Amy’s blog, The Journey for an Ear, or on her Team Kennedy Facebook page.
Amy Hendershott
Amy Hendershott

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