How do you take care of the emotional health of your other children when you’re caring for someone with special needs?
This is a daily struggle for me. However, I try to keep things as balanced as possible. That word “balance” is a funny one; it comes into play a lot. But my question when it comes to balance is: HOW? How do you manage to balance everything? I honestly don’t know, I just do it. I do what I need to do to make things happen, even if that means losing myself in it. When it comes to caring for my kids, I make sure that of them has their time, their friends, among other things. They are unique individuals with different hopes, dreams, and goals. So I want to make sure I spend as much time with them as a family, while also giving them their own mommy time. With four kids, it can be challenging to make sure everyone gets their fair share of mommy time. Some do get more mommy time than others, but I remind myself I’m just one person, and I can’t be everywhere all the time.
As a fellow mom and caregiver: cut yourself some slack from time-to-time.
How do you help them work through other people judging them because of Djanai’s (your oldest daughter who has cerebral palsy) diagnosis?
Whenever something comes up, we talk about it. Since kindergarten, I have been a part of awareness projects at my children’s elementary schools. I go into the classrooms and talk to kids about a different disability or diagnosis each month (based on what awareness month it is). For example: March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness month so I go into the classroom, read a book, and talk about CP with everyone. Then we would talk about Djanai and how she has CP.
Sometimes, I ask one of my own kids to come up and share, with me, all the things Djanai likes that make her like other people, and the things that make her different. Djordan (my son) might say “Djanai likes playing soccer,” I would say “does anyone here like to play soccer?”. Of course everyone shouts out that they like soccer… Then the questions would follow.
“But how does Djanai play soccer if she can’t walk?”
“Is it hard?”
“Does she fall?”
“Can she play in the wheelchair?”
“How does she kick the ball?”
And so on… Once the conversations begin, the stereotypes and barriers break down. I also do this for other diagnoses, too, like autism and Down syndrome!
How do you help your children feel like they aren’t “different” or weird because they are related to Djanai?
I make sure they understand how talented they are. I also remind them to not compare themselves to one another. Any person who looks at them as weird because they have a sister who has special needs does not understand how much they are missing out on in life. They will never know how much you can learn from someone like Djanai and never truly experience that feeling of unconditional love that someone has for you with no judgement.
– Linda Hall, Springible Contributor