Caring for a child with special needs is challenging. It can also be thankless, relentless and make parents feel invisible within their friendship groups and families.
The best way to support carers is by making them feel like they are not alone in their struggles. Joining groups that are designed with carers in mind is a good option. I am a big advocate of Carers SA, soon to become the Carer Gateway in April 2020. However, not everyone wants to be a part of a group situation, preferring 1-1 support and familiar people only.
It is important to provide carers with choices about the type of support they need. It might be a peer support group, 1-1 counselling, carer outings or simply family and friend gatherings in supportive environments.
Providing a safe environment for the carer and the person they are caring for will be greatly appreciated and may work to ease the social isolation that many carers feel in their role. Planning inclusive events may require a little extra effort but asking questions of the carer about what would make it a more successful event for them, will go a long way in helping them feel enjoyment and a sense of belonging.
Here are some other practical ways you can help special needs parents.
Finding and maintaining friendships can be difficult for many people but when you are a carer, it can feel impossible to find people who you truly connect with.
If you don’t have many friends, joining interest clubs such as a camera club, carer groups and activities, school events and online communities are some ways that you can find others who have similar interests as you.
Taking the time to build positive friendship connections increases your sense of well-being and gives you a wider world view. And by regularly talking to others, it can help reduce overall feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It is really important that when you find those connections with others that you take the time to nurture those people and share your highlights and lowlights equally. Make the time to listen to one another, have a laugh and support each other not only in the sad times but also in your endeavours and dreams.
People who are truly happy are out and about living life, enjoying their passions, doing good work and being good people. Chase your own passions and follow your own path. You will be amazed at who you find when your paths eventually cross. You will find those special people who ‘go together’ with you, who make you smile, who inspire you to do what you love and who believe in you, even when you struggle to believe in yourself.