Raising a Child with Special Needs
Only those with first-hand experience truly understand the blessings and challenges of raising a child with special needs. Parenting is hard work under the best of circumstances. When you add managing the needs of a child with physical or mental disabilities, it can bring a whole new level of physical and emotional stress for parents. But it also brings a level of joy others rarely comprehend.
Whether you have just recently received a troubling diagnosis, are moving into a new stage of care, or have just started attending this church, we want to be a source of encouragement and hope as you fulfill your calling to parent a child with special needs.
We believe every child is a gift from God, made in his image and reflecting his dignity. We also consider those caring for children with special needs worthy of special honor and support. As you seek to honor God with your parenting, we encourage you to reflect on your blessing, your call, and your challenge.
A Special Connection
Those nurturing a child with special needs often encounter the heart of God in ways that can only be described as a spiritual mystery. While your child may be unable to participate in certain physical and/or academic pursuits, they can thrive in the most important arena of life—the spirit. Even those who can’t understand the written word of God embody what it means to love and be loved as one totally dependent upon the Giver and Sustainer of life. And those honored to serve such children are given a unique connection with the God whose image they bear—seen in a gazing smile, a shrieking laugh, or an unspoken moment of delight which proclaims that “the refreshing water of God’s joy is available to us all.”
Laying Down Your Life
You have one of the most difficult yet vital callings in the kingdom of God. But how can you maintain the ongoing energy and perseverance needed to parent a child with special needs?
There’s no other way to do it than to daily embrace the call to lay down your life. Philippians 2 says:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not
consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very
nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he
humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5–8).
All Christian parents are called to mirror Jesus by taking on “the very nature of a servant” at home. But it is especially real in the midst of the never-ending sacrifices demanded of those caring for children with special needs. Even if those around you never understand the load you bear, you play a part that is immensely important from God’s perspective and is credited as serving Christ himself (Matthew 25:40).
Finding Support and Replenishment
No matter the range of your child’s special needs, you require replenishment in order to stay faithful and avoid burnout. You need practical help and spiritual nourishment. Stephen Covey talks about the importance of “sharpening the saw”—of prioritizing physical, emotional, and spiritual restoration so that your efforts can be fueled with new strength and purpose. And you can’t sharpen your saw unless you stop cutting. Following that advice is an extra challenge for you—but even more essential. You and your child need periodic breaks. Of course, making that happen can be difficult because very few offer to help and those who do may not understand what to do, your child’s unique needs, or just how hard it can be. Nevertheless, you can be disciplined about seeking refreshment for yourself. Often for loving moms and dads, the last person they think about is themselves. But you must prioritize your own spiritual and emotional health for you to be the parent God is calling you to be.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 828
For the Care of Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829
For Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance to learn true humility, without which they cannot see you. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829 with additions.
A good starting point if you want to investigate resources available for your child’s specific needs. JoniAndFriends.org
A website, blog, podcast and a growing resource bank created by and for parents of special needs children. NeedProject.org
A site written by a mother of two adopted children with special needs. The site covers a wide range of issues, has a blog and offers suggested resources. MothersWithAttitude.com
- Educating God’s Wildflowers: Homeschooling Special Needs By Maureen Wittman
Maureen shares how to home school the learning disabled child from experience: dyslexia, speech impediments, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome. She provides abundant resources to parents seeking to home educate their child. All parents of special needs children may benefit from her insights.
- Raise Happy Children: Raise Them Saints! By Mary Ann Budnik
Is a step by step guide to develop your child’s character through the Sacraments.
A site that offers ideas to create a Christian culture in your home.
- See Also the Bringing Faith Home resources
• Intentional Parenting
• Your Child’s Relationship with Christ
• Preparing for Child for Adolescence
- The Book of Common Prayer
The BCP contains all of our services, prayers, and many resources for private devotions. It can be purchased on Amazon or at the Incarnation Bookstore. See especially pages 301–308 for insight into how our tradition thinks about children and parenting. bcponline.org
- Children & Family Ministry
Incarnation has a thriving Children & Family Ministry. There are many opportunities to connect with other parents and families in the same season of life as you. For more information, visit Children & Family Ministry.
- Moms Talk is a group of moms that meets every other week for study, support, and prayer. More info »
- Get Connected.
Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor Together.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to parenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.