4 Essential Tips for New Parents with a Disability
April 05, 2018
We hear a lot about the struggles of parenting a child with a disability, but we don’t hear as much about the flipped script. According to research, nearly 4 million American parents are doing the hardest job in the world while living with a disability themselves. The road is tough, and new parents with disabilities will face challenges they could never predict. Being prepared - especially in the home - is the key to success. You can do it. Here are some tips.
Make sure your home is as accessible as possible:
If you’re living with a disability, bringing a child into a home that’s not very accessible is really starting behind the 8-ball. Your life will be hectic and stressful enough without having to worry about getting from point A to point B safely and comfortably in your own home. That’s why it’s vital to make accessibility modifications before you begin your parenthood journey. Some common needs include widening doorways (for wheelchair access), installing grab bars and railing throughout the home, replacing steps with ramps, and making sure all the flooring in the home is non-slip. Lighting is an important thing to consider as well. Your home should not only be filled with overhead lighting, but also stocked with direct lighting from lamps.
It’s ok to ask for help:
You’ve probably gotten pretty good at creative solutions for getting things done - but parenting is a whole different ball game. You may need some help at times - and that is ok! The obvious type of help is childcare help - whether in the form of a nanny or a babysitter. But a less-obvious form of assistance you should consider is a housekeeper. Things can get messy and disorganized when you’re raising a child, and a housekeeper can help keep your home clean and free of dangerous obstructions.
As your child ages, be open and honest about your disability:
Your child will start to have questions about your disability almost as soon as they can talk. You may have a gut reaction that says to downplay your disability in order to keep things “normal.” This is wrong. It’s best to be completely honest with your child. As TheMighty.com notes, a lack of preparation and education about your disability can be problematic as your child ages. Eventually, your child may have to accept expanded responsibilities around the house. It’s best if they are confronted with this reality early on.
Know your rights:
It’s unfortunate that this even needs to be said, but as a disabled parent it’s vital that you know your rights. According to the National Council of Disability (NCD), 35 states list disability as possible grounds for termination of parental rights. “Best interest” of the child can be determined, in part, by disability status in every single state. This is true even though 1 in 10 children have a parent with disability. You have rights, should it ever come to you having to exert them. Make sure to review this primer from the NCD.
In the end, you must accept that your parenting journey is not a normal one. You and your child will face challenges that the majority of families will not and cannot understand. This doesn’t make your situation strange or untenable - it simply makes it unique. Millions of parents with disabilities are able to raise happy, healthy children. Out of the struggle comes immense reward.
Photo via Unsplash