Tag Archives: healthy relationships

Hope for Healthy Relationships

Special Needs Parenting Cover

Recently I published the first in what I hope to be a series of books offering support to special needs parents. Today I am sharing an excerpt from chapter six. I hope it is a blessing to you.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Ruth 1:16 NLT

Relationships are critically important to personal and family resilience.  Maintaining healthy relationships within the family and developing friendships help create a network of support as well as emotional reserves for current and upcoming challenges. The need for relationships among special needs parents is a large part of my motivation for writing material for use by small groups.  One of the greatest gifts parents who are overwhelmed can receive is the knowledge that they are not alone. The relationships that come through meeting others on the same journey provide meaningful connections and support.

Since healthy relationships are an important part of building resilience in special needs parents, where to begin?

  • Set priorities. Which are the relationships you value most? Which are the relationships most in need of nurture? Spouse? Child? Friends? Set priorities to focus your attention there. A pastor I know shared that he and his wife make an intentional priority to set aside a few evenings each month to nurture relationships with other couples so that they have friendships.
  • Understand the difference between acquaintances and friends. Social media announces our friend count and number of connections. Who can you really count on when needed? Who can hear your disappointments without judgment? Who is willing to work through challenges with you? Do you return the favor? Those are your real friends.
  • Create space for the important relationships. In my household we have “family time” pretty much every weeknight. We read together or watch a show or share a meal. Studies show the simple act of eating together builds family resilience as it engages four relationship building blocks (loving action, time, communication, and healthy boundaries). My husband and I set a priority for a weekly date night. For my most valued friendships I try to keep regular contact and get together as often as possible.
  • Pay attention to the give-and-take of relationships. Are you giving too much and in need of getting something more back? Are you taking too much yourself? Relationships should have a rhythm to them. At times we are in need and at times we are the ones offering support. Relationships that lack a balance of give and take become draining over time for the person who is always in the mode of giving.
  • Enjoy being a parent. Yes, there are therapies to do, medications to administer, schedules to watch, behaviors to observe and modify. Just remember you are a parent and not a caseworker even though it sure can feel that way at times.
  • Set healthy boundaries between you and your child. I often experience among special needs parents a sense of a blurring of that boundary. I have heard the pronoun “we” countless times. “We got a low grade on the math test.” “We had a rough day at school.” “We forgot our medication.” “We had five seizures last night.”

Healthy relationships are an important part of the journey with special needs. In challenging times it is especially important to have a core of support. I opened with a well-known verse from the story of Ruth. Naomi had lost her husband and her two sons, who were also married. In Naomi’s culture, a woman’s status and security resided in her connections with the men in her family. Her worth was tied to fertility. All three of the widows were in a precarious situation, but especially so for Naomi. Unlike Naomi, her daughters-in-law were young and could hold onto hope of another marriage. Yet, in the midst of the darkest of times Naomi had a core relationship with her daughter-in-law Ruth that provided support. The health of her relationship with her daughter-in-law revealed itself in her Ruth’s fierce loyalty. Their mutual support sustained them both through the hardest of times. It may seem difficult to set a high priority to build healthy relationships with so many other pressing needs. However, healthy relationships are a key tool to personal resilience for the journey ahead.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing.

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Special Needs Parenting Introduction

 Special Needs Parenting Cover

Today I am sharing with my readers an excerpt from the introduction of my book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.

I have hit the bottom of the tank today. We had our annual review at the school, and it’s so hard to hear in concrete terms how delayed my son is. I know it. None of this information is new, but it’s so hard to hear again. I worry about his future, let alone how we will afford all of his therapies today. Every single day there is so much to do that I feel I can barely keep up. The needs are unending, and I am not nearly enough.

—Blog Post, Anonymous

 Have you ever been that parent? I have. My experience isn’t exactly the same as my friend’s recent blog post, but it resonates in many ways. Challenging behaviors at school? Yes! Worry about my son’s future? Yes! Endlessly running around to therapy appointments? Yes! A sense at times of being overwhelmed in day-to-day parenting? Yes! A view of the future shaded by anxiety? Yes!

Our journeys as special needs parents are as varied as the differences among our children. Each child is unique and precious in the sight of God, and there is no other exactly like our own. Yet there are common challenges and common experiences shared among us as special needs parents. As clergy, I have led a variety of parenting support groups for more than five years and it never ceases to amaze me that, regardless of how varied the diagnoses within each family, there are common cords that bind us together emotionally and spiritually. Throughout the years I have seen healing of deeply held emotional and spiritual wounds through coming together in a supportive, welcoming Christian community and working through our challenges together.

My journey toward writing Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving began years ago when members in my congregation asked me to lead a Bible study for special needs parents. I looked for a resource I could grab off a bookstore shelf that would address the emotional and spiritual concerns of the special needs parents and had limited success. I was in the midst my studies in a doctoral program at the time and I realized that I had found an area of tremendous need for resources within the church. This epiphany changed not only my academic focus, but the trajectory of my ministry.

Through my personal journey as a special needs mom, my experiences as clergy walking with families with special needs, and academic research into how best to build family resilience, I developed a seven-week study. Each chapter addresses a common challenge and offers a positive perspective grounded in scripture and practical tools that can be revisited again and again.

  • God and Special Needs
  • Understanding Chronic Grief
  • Breaking Free from Guilt
  • Tools to Increase Patience
  • Self-care for Caregivers
  • Building Healthy Relationships
  • Hope and Healing

Whether parents read Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving as part of a small group study or read it individually, I pray this book provides both insights into a loving God and practical tools for the journey ahead. Encouraging special needs parents is at the heart of my calling in ministry, and I hope that the book will be a blessing.

Next week I will share a passage from chapter six, Building Healthy Relationships.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing and Amazon.

Blessings,

Lorna