Resolutions for the Special Needs Parent’s New Year
John Felageller
August 12, 2020

I would like to start this piece by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. I would like to continue this piece by saying that I am no fan of new year’s resolutions, or lists of resolutions, or actually most lists, at least in blog format (my wife’s to do lists are of course sacred.) But I have never been someone to make a resolution or several resolutions and try to stick to them throughout the year, and therefore I have never been crazy about reading a list of them. However, this year I thought there may be some value in actually making a list of resolutions, somewhat for myself but also for the special needs community at large, as I felt it on my heart to share some positive affirmations that may help to inspire and guide all of the parents out there. 

Before I get into these, allow me to provide some disclaimers, as I am not in the business of telling folks what they need to be doing or doing better, so believe me when I say that these are just guidelines, not anything that one must or must not do. Also, this list is meant to be taken apart by you, cut into pieces by you, and manipulated by you to fit your particular life and needs, as no one else can tell you about that. Lastly, if one or more of these really rings a bell for you, or on the flipside, pushes a button for you, please comment or message me, as I’d love your thoughts on my first try at doing something I generally don’t do.

Here we go:

10. Embrace Your Life. The most difficult thing for many special needs parents just happens to be first (and to think it only gets harder after this!). But while we so often focus on seeking things outside of our circumstances to reach out for, I think we should begin by giving our kids, their diagnoses, our spouses, careers, marriage and over all craziness and just give it a big ‘ol air hug to let it all know how much you love and appreciate it. Yes I said appreciate your circumstances, as they are yours and yours alone to love, wonderfully and fearfully made.

9. Read Your Bible. This one is admittedly tough for me, as it may be for you, However, the same discipline that gets hoards of people to the gym the first few weeks of the year (and then ends shortly after that), needs to apply to you getting into the good book, as once you have a structure and take time for it, you will no doubt find an endless supply of guidance, support and strength for your daily life. I can also drop time for prayer in here as well, and I think it is a natural pairing, but many times I find myself just praying in the car, but I need to sit for my Bible.

8. Open Your Heart. But I need to protect my heart don’t I? Shield it and all with that full armor of God thingy? Well there is also a little something called being vulnerable as well, and one cannot allow others to help them unless they are open to such. So we need to allow our hearts to be open to the support we may so desperately need, open up to new friendships and relationships we may not have thought were possible, open up to the hope that God may be trying to pour into your life if we’re just willing to listen and allow Him to work.

7. Message Your Friends. I am personally guilty of not doing a great job at this all of the time. Just like the Bible reading, this is something we need to turn into a muscle memory for us, and the great thing about now living in 2019 (at least it will be when you read this), is that we have so many wonderfully convenient ways to reach out don’t we? How you do it is not nearly as important as just doing it, but I would encourage you to engage in actual face time with those you care about as a by-product of reaching out. 

6. Engage Your Creativity. We all need an outlet or outlets outside of our overworked and stressful lives as special needs parents. While these can certainly be working out or simply reading book, why not also use whatever your God given talents might be to unwind but also to create. So journal, draw, paint, sew, crochet, act, sing, dance or whatever else makes your heart feel happy. What’s great about creativity is that it blesses others as much as it blesses you because you are using what God intended for you to use.

5. Rest, Respite, Relax. This pairs well with number 4, however this is the bigger more long-range version of it. But how can I plan to give myself any amount of long-term rest when I can barely get a five minute catnap? The fact is, you must, yes plan it. Maybe a far away vacation or cruise isn’t on the list for a variety of reasons (like my autistic child won’t get on a plane for example), but one thing my family learned is there are a variety of ways to give oneself true rest. For us, being in a nature is a wonderful way to recharge, and sometimes that means a camping trip a state or two over, but it can also mean an afternoon walk with your family in a forest preserve, and yes even with your child you may find an activity like this restful as I have. The truth is, I can relax because my child is relaxed, and I’m having great bonding time also.

4. Allow Yourself Breaks.  Sounds easy to say right? It is certainly much harder to do, but it is so necessary that we do some combination of these all of the time. Not much time you say? It doesn’t take long to give oneself a moment of rest that can be truly meaningful, as we are looking for quality and not quantity. Give yourself permission to take small breaks during the day, everyday, for at least 5 or 10 minutes. Be present when you do this as well, don’t allow yourself to be distracted as difficult as it may be, allow yourself you time.

3. Understand You’re Human. Yes, you are in fact, human. You will struggle, you will make mistakes, you will hurt others, you will let yourself down, you will let others down, and yes you may even let your child down. First, remember that part of being human is acknowledging your weaknesses and shortcoming, but the bigger part of you as a Christian is to remember the power of the God that lives inside you, walks with you, supports and strengthens you and calls you to something greater than you in your humanity could ever be.

2. Obey Your Feelings. I want to be clear, I am not suggesting that your feelings and emotions should dictate your actions and decisions. I am saying that we should honor our feelings since our emotions act as a “tuner” to alert us to experiences or situations that may not be safe or in our greater good. This plays out for us as a special needs parent when we meet with teachers, doctors or specialists that may have one vision or perspective of our child. They may provide us with data and their opinions, but when you receive this information, how does it make you feel? Your brain may try to process it rationally and believe what you hear, but your emotions may tell you something else. Sit with those feelings, pray over them, ask God for clarity regarding them. Are you hearing something that you might not otherwise have awareness of?

1. Yes To God. Do you say it? How often do you say it? Or when you feel Him speaking into your heart, do you fight it, or even say no? We all need to make our best resolution on this year’s list to listen, follow and obey the voice of God no matter how it comes to you. So then when you face troubles, challenges or hardships, you know that you are always ready to allow God into your life and let Him work into and through you and to not fear for your life or your child’s, as you have already made the best decision of your life. You said yes.

There it is. I hope you have found something in this list that speaks to you. I believe if you focus on all of these even a little bit it will make a difference in your life on a daily basis. But more importantly, I hope that allow Him into your life so that He can make all of the difference for you.