Special-needs parenting: A dad's point of view

Dads of kids with special needs share their parenting experiences.

1Anchel

Syona and Dilip. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Dads of kids with special needs face their own set of challenges, and we need to make sure we’re supporting dads throughout the year—and not just on Father’s Day. Over the past few years, I’ve made a few dad friends, so I decided to hit them up and ask them to share their insight:

What do you want the world to know about dads of kids with special needs?

“We are just normal dads who, like any parent, want the best for our children. We live in a world that has some pretty amazing stories. Ask us about those stories and we would be happy to share.” —Darren, father of a boy with special needs and Director of Client Relations at Custom Mobility.

“Our kids are constantly on our minds, and it’s hard. Sometimes we to need to talk and need a shoulder.” —Stuart, owner of the Swan and Firkin and dad to a little girl with special needs.

“Dads with special-needs children have a tough road ahead. We are often the breadwinner working to support our family, which at times makes it difficult to attend every medical and therapy appointment, no matter how much we want to be there.” —Josh Fraser, dad to a young boy with special needs.

Read more: Can being a dad make your husband a better man?>

What advice would you give other fathers who have a child with special needs?

“Be active in your child’s life—they need you now more than ever. Hug your entire family every single day, and love every little achievement your special kid makes and tell them how proud you are,” says Stuart.

“It’s OK to admit you are hurting, to cry and to grieve the loss of what could have been. Seek out other dads of special-needs kids and talk about it. And lastly find the joy and happiness: Sometimes it is hard to find, but it’s there. I spent the first year of my son’s life angry and bitter, putting the brave face on for everyone else,” explains Josh.

And Darren, who has the oldest child out of the bunch, offers up this fantastic advice for other dads:

“Dads of children that are one to five years old: Try to learn to live in the moment. The future will take care of itself. The worry of what could happen is horrible, but many of the things that you worry about will never happen. Enjoy those precious moments as they happen…you could miss them if you are worried about the future.

Dads of children five to 10 years old: Try to do something to leave things a little bit better than you found it. Something small. Something to make things just a tiny bit easier for those parents that are coming after you.

Dads of children 10 years and older: It is time to slowly start to look at the future. There is a lot of work to be done before our kids reach 18 years old. Don’t spend all of your time on this, but just start. What do you want that to look like? Find fun and creative ways to bring people together to start the conversation. It is about creating an amazing future for your child once they are done school. What is this incredible future going to look like? Dream big!”

And, of course, I asked Dilip what he wanted to share: “Enjoy being a dad. Your child will develop on their own pace, will have their own sense of humour and have their own likes and dislikes. But if you are always worried about what they can’t do, or how they are different than what you expect, you won’t enjoy being a dad.”

So, there you have it. As we continue to write and discuss the experiences of special-needs parenting, it’s important we include the voices of everyone involved.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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