Maritza (Mitzy) Pardo M.A., BCBA
Getting to a Place of Gratitude
Many people in the world continue to struggle with the lasting effects of COVID and have had to make difficult sacrifices and changes in their lives to support their households. However, the impact may have been doubled for parents with special needs children. Whether it was news of a new diagnosis or the challenge of maintaining therapeutic services through the pandemic, the struggle to return to normalcy continues.
As the holidays of gratitude and giving are approaching, some may have to dig deeper than others to get to a place of gratitude. The good news is that even if you are feeling overwhelmed and not in a place to “give thanks,” there are supports to help you and your family get to a place of gratitude.
1) Joining a support group: Meeting other parents who are going through the same challenges, can help bring encouragement and help you build new friendships. Whether the groups are led by therapists or other related professionals, surrounding yourself with those who are trained to actively “listen” can be incredibly helpful.
2) Utilizing caregiving services: Many parents may or may not know that respite services (www.archrespite.org) and home care services are available to help support caretaking of those with disabilities. Many may be eligible to receive these services through their local regional center or healthcare insurance. While many may be reluctant to have others in their home to help babysit or assist with caretaking, you can also have a trusted friend or family member go through the proper training to qualify as a paid respite care worker. For those who do not qualify for respite care services or need more hours than they are eligible for, supplementing through specialty babysitting (e.g., babysitter with experience caring for special needs individuals through agencies such as Care.com, Sittercity.com, or Westside Nannies for special needs, to name a few) is another alternative.
3) Focusing on what you do have rather than what you’re missing: For most of us a feeling of gratitude (e.g., thankfulness and appreciation) comes easily when things are going well in our lives. However, when we are struck with an unexpected diagnosis, grief, or continued challenges, it can be all that we focus on. Moving from a place of anxiety and worry to gratitude or optimism may feel impossible. But if we intentionally take notice of the things that are going well in our lives; however small it may be, or that moment in your day that made you smile, it just might be the catalyst that starts you on a path of gratitude. While many of us do not find joy in our immediate challenges, it is the intentional effort of finding reasons to be thankful in the midst of our struggles that leads us to a place of gratitude.
4) Your journey may be a gift to others: While you may feel depleted of energy, optimism or resources, your journey may be an invaluable gift to others. Many families may want to keep their child’s diagnosis or struggles private, while others choose to share their daily struggles and overall journey. Some parents have intentionally become mentors or advocates, while others only find out later that their ongoing efforts to meet their challenges have been a gift of hope.
Lastly, like all skills learned, time and repetition will enhance your efforts. Knowing we are all learning together and not alone in this process is at least one good reason to be grateful.