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.