4 Key Tips for Gentle Parenting When You Have a Disability By Ashley Taylor

Another post from Ashley Taylor about gentle parenting with a disability.

Being a parent is never easy, but when you have a disability, several aspects of the job can become a whole lot more complicated. For the approximately 4.1 million parents with disabilities throughout the country, the usual questions of parenting are compounded by worries about how they will keep up with their child, keep them safe, and educate them. Whatever your disability, the following tips can help you deal with these questions as they arise.

Focus on Home Safety

As a parent, one of your most important jobs is keeping your child safe and healthy within your home. Parents with disabilities have to be particularly careful, as they are not usually able to keep up with a small child’s energy or react quickly enough if something dangerous is about to happen. Therefore, the key to parenting is prevention.

There are a few key safety modifications that can make the everyday tasks of parenting easier and safer. These can include adaptable products such as chairlifts, modified sinks, and adjustable furniture such as changing tables and toilets. When you have a small child, a child safety gate can be invaluable, as it keeps them out of dangerous areas and can help you keep track of exactly where they are at any given time.

Learn to DIY

Any piece of furniture or kit you can think of for raising a child has a wheelchair or disability-friendly version out there. However, these can often be very expensive. For example, cribs for disabled parents that open from the front can cost about $2,000, but if you can DIY (or know someone who can), you can easily make one yourself.

Another area where DIY helps is food. Opening baby food jars can be difficult for people with cerebral palsy, arthritis, or similar disabilities. Making your own can be both healthier and easier as long as you have a good food processor. These recipes can give you some inspiration.

Teach Them Compassion

Your children will experience a rare benefit from growing up with a disabled parent: They will automatically develop empathy and compassion for those who are differently abled. However, you should still actively teach them about these matters as well.

This article by Parent Map outlines the ways in which parents can speak to non-disabled children about disability. While it is written from the perspective of a non-disabled parent, much of the advice still applies, such as being open to answering questions and teaching them that not all disabilities will look exactly like yours. 

Also, you can use your disability to teach them about compassion in other areas of life. Growing up with someone who is considered “different” will help them see the many ways in which “difference” is used to mock, bully, and demean people. You can use this to start a conversation about bullying and how they can prevent it, both in themselves and the people around them.

Know Your Rights

Parents with disabilities will sometimes run into problems with social services or the law because people wrongly believe that they are unable to take care of their children. This isn’t necessarily likely to happen, but it is still a good idea for you to be informed of your rights as a disabled parent. This toolkit by the National Council on Disability is an invaluable tool for this.

Parenting with a disability doesn’t necessarily mean everything is suddenly harder, but it does mean you have to think about certain matters more carefully than other parents. You will have to plan your everyday life in more detail and remain aware of how your experience is shaping your child’s world view. However, a disability will never stop you from having a beautiful, supportive, and loving relationship with your child — if anything, it can sometimes bring you closer.

 

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Guest Post: A Childproofing Checklist for Parents with Disabilities to Be By Ashley Taylor

Please join me in welcoming Ashley Taylor from disabledparents.org.  She is a parent with a disability and so when she asked me if she could guest post on my blog, I was delighted.  I have severe cerebral palsy but I don’t have children and sometimes that’s held against me.  So here’s a parent with a disability that is treating her children respectfully.  I hope you will enjoy her posts.

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Image via Pixabay

Childproofing a home before a baby arrives is a challenging chore for any expectant parent. And it can be especially daunting for parents to be who are dealing with disabilities. But getting an early start and tackling tasks systematically can help make your home safer for you and its new occupant. Here is some information and advice to get you going.

Background on Parents With Disabilities

Research shows there were 4.1 million parents with disabilities in the United States in 2014, or around 6.2 percent of parents with children under 18. And, though attitudes are starting to shift in some states, the majority have dependency statutes that allow courts to reach the determination a parent is unfit based on the parent’s disability. So, while it is important for every expectant parent to establish a safe environment in their homes, it could be even more critical for those whose skills might be scrutinized by well meaning family, friends, and officials.

Fortunately, some agencies provide services specifically designed to assist prospective and expectant parents with disabilities plan for life after labor or adoption. Services could include home visits to evaluate areas for safety purposes, lending out adaptive child care equipment for people to try before they buy, and performing follow-up visits as the baby ages. Advocacy agencies such as Through the Looking Glass are a good place to start when seeking resources and training programs.

What to Do Before the Baby Arrives

There are some things you should mark off the child proof checklist prior to a baby’s grand arrival in its new home. Here are some suggestions from sources including Redfin.

General Safety

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors if you have an attached garage or use oil or gas to heat your home. Check batteries twice a year.

 

  • Install and maintain functional smoke detectors. Check them monthly and change batteries at least once a year if your detectors require them.

 

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand and have a fire escape plan in place.

 

  • Keep nightlights away from fabrics, including bedding and curtains, and opt for night lights that don’t heat up when used.

 

  • Put together a first-aid kit for babies and take an infant CPR class.

 

  • Install childproof locks on cabinets containing poisons, medicines, and cleaning supplies.

 

  • If your home has lead paint that’s peeling or flaking, hire a certified Lead-Safe professional seal or remove it.

 

  • Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120℉ to minimize the risk of accidental burns.

 

  • Install plates that slide closed over electrical outlets.

 

Furniture, Rugs, and More

 

  • Cover sharp furniture edges with bumpers or padding.

 

  • Stony or sharp fireplace hearths should also be covered and expectant parents should also install heat-resistant gates for when the fireplace is in use.

 

  • Put non-slip pads under area rugs that don’t already have non-slip backs.

 

  • Anchor heavy furniture that could tip over, such as dressers and refrigerators, to the wall or floor.

 

  • Consider investing in baby gates to block off areas that you plan to keep off limits for your little one, but avoid accordion-style gates that they might get stuck in. For rooms with doors, try knob covers that make it doors difficult to open for little hands. Test some options early to make sure they also meet your accessibility needs.
  • Install window stops or guards.

 

  • Clip looped window blind cords and install safety tassels. Fit blinds’ inner cords with inner cord stops.

 

  • Review safety suggestions and product recalls before buying furniture for the baby’s room.

 

There will be other childproofing considerations once your baby starts crawling and walking, but this list gives soon-to-be parents a strong start toward creating a home that will help keep all its inhabitants happy and healthy for years to come.