Am I Doing Enough for My Child With Special Needs?

Mother comforting daughter sitting on sofa
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"Are you bringing Polly back to reading class next semester?"

The teacher looks kindly on me as I stumble through my response.

"Um, no, not this time," I say. "Hopefully, we can make it happen next year."

I walk away feeling guilty. Should we do this class again, Lord? We don't have the time or the money or, honestly, the energy, but it seems beneficial. Is this Polly's only shot at reading? Am I blowing it?

Guilt can be a big deal for anyone. But when you have children with disabilities, it can be immobilizing. Two of my kids have special needs, and concerns for their well-being never end: Am I doing enough? What other therapies exist? Will she ever learn to read? Is the rest of the family OK?

The more time ticks by, the more I'm convinced that I'm messing things up.

Guilt doesn't just deplete. It steals our joy. So how do we manage through it?

Set small goals

A doable plan helps us stay on track. What areas of development should we focus on? Academic? Social? Motor skills? What does the rest of the family need? Dinners together? Personal time with each child? A regular date night for Mom and Dad?

Keep goals simple. Ten minutes of reading a few nights a week. An occasional family movie night. It's not much, but it's something. And we can always build on it.

A plan promotes forward movement and brings peace. We aren't doing the reading class next semester, but that doesn't mean we aren't working on reading at home.

Let go of comparison

Comparison wastes energy, and yet we spend so much time doing it. What are other parents feeding their kids? What therapy groups do they attend? How are they balancing special needs and the rest of life? It's much healthier to talk with other parents than to compare. Ask opinions. Gather ideas and support.

When we look to other families for camaraderie, comparison loses its power. People on similar journeys are blessings, not barriers.

Trust God

Our kids' potential is not dependent on therapy, on a class ... or even on us. We have been entrusted with them only for a while. The most important thing is to love them and point them to Jesus.

Small goals can help us manage our guilt, and letting go of comparison is freeing. But trusting God brings contentment. He has the ultimate plan, and He will accomplish it.

Gillian Marchenko is an author, speaker, wife and mother to four daughters.
This article first appeared in the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled " 'Am I Doing Enough?' " If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2018 by Gillian Marchenko. Used by permission.