7 Ways to Involve Grandparents in the Life of your Child with Special Needs
Every grandparent looks forward to the relationship that will develop with his or her grandchild. No matter where your child is developmentally or what their learning needs are, the need for loving and caring adults in his/her life will always be an inherent need.
Grandparents can play a key role in supporting you and your child’s life. If they are tentative because of your child’s diagnosis or learning needs, it may be that they are uncomfortable or not sure how they can best support your family.
Here are some ideas for how to include the grandparents in you and your child’s life:
1. Invite grandparents to the therapy sessions that your child attends
It gives them a better understanding on the goals and strategies that your child is learning. Therapists can also take the time to explain what and why certain techniques are used with your child. It might be a sensitive topic if you are telling your parents or in-laws what to do with your child. Seeing and hearing the information from a third party may help with some of the conversations. If grandparents become comfortable with your child and the treatment centre, grandparents can take your child to sessions, on days that you are not able to.
2. Keep in mind culture
If your parents speak another language, ask your therapists if there is information about your child’s diagnosis and interventions translated into other languages.Keep in mind, in some cultures, certain diagnosis and interventions are not well known, so this is new knowledge for them as well.
3. Keep grandparents informed on your child's interest
When it comes time for holidays, birthdays and presents-just-because-grandma/grandpa-can, let your parents and in-laws know about your child’s interests, developmental toys, or equipment needs that have been suggested by teachers and therapists. They get to spoil them with items that can be helpful with their development.
4. Think about ways your parents and in-laws can share in special activities and games together
Build this into regular routines, so this is something that your child and grandparents both can look forward to their times together. It can be simple activities: having snack together, going to the park or watching a favorite show together.
5. Bring familiar toys to visits
When visiting grandparents’ homes, bring familiar toys and activities for your child to play with, so they feel comfortable during visits and stays there. If you are staying overnight, do some planning to see if they can have space for extra equipment or familiar items that will help your child feel more comfortable.
6. Don't take it too personally
Try not to take what they say too personally if they get involved or give their opinions. They are speaking from their own life experiences, which are influenced by cultural and social norms of their generation, which may be very different from the world we live in today. They are also your parents, so in their own way, they are trying to help in the ways that they know how and they may also have to go through their own acceptance process regarding your child’s needs.
7. Share all of your experiences with them
Share photos and videos of the milestones and experiences that your child experiences. Grandparents love to share and celebrate all the things that their grandchildren are doing. If you celebrate it, they will too.
How do your parents participate in your child's life? We would love to hear about it, tell us in the comments below.
Esther Leung is a special needs consultant who has worked with children, youth and families. She has 15 years of experience in a variety of settings including homes, childcare, schools and recreational settings. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and 2 young boys.