Dads Matter! 5 Bonding Tips for Fathers and Their Child with Special Needs
A father’s role in a special needs family is crucial. Not only are they a component of the family’s financial security, but fathers also play a vital, foundational role in the mental and physical development of their children with special needs. Dads offer a uniquely male style of play and interaction with their children and, especially for kids with special needs, it empowers and encourages them in very special ways. Like other kids, those with special needs thrive when they have access to both strong female and male role models.
Dad’s Critical Role in Raising a Child with Special Needs
Men sometimes have difficulty facing and discussing things they can’t change or fix. The typical solution oriented man may sometimes feel powerless and less competent when he realizes he simply can’t do anything to eliminate the challenges and issues faced by his child with special needs.
Some men find it difficult to handle the emotional aspect of raising a child with a disability. These fathers often focus on long-term obstacles, such as financial planning and other practical details, while the mothers typically respond emotionally as they face the challenges associated with daily care for the child. The fathers tend to push their tender emotions away, sometimes expressing anger or frustration when they do show emotion. But, dads must, instead, accept this helplessness and focus on discovering what they can do to give the best life experiences possible to their children with special needs.
Many men have discovered the countless joys they experience by becoming actively involved in raising and caring for their special children. The bond between a father and any child — special needs or not — is critical in that it impacts the development of the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and motor skills.
Stay away from isolation
Whether you’re raising your child with your spouse or as a single father, you play a vital role as a positive and loving male role model in the life of your child. Don’t isolate yourself when it comes to dealing with the many challenges that arise out of raising your special child. Find a support group that meets regularly, so you can interact with other fathers who face the same challenges you do.
You can share stories and helpful solutions to problems with likeminded parents, while also enjoying much-needed social interaction and networking. Talking to other fathers in this way can help you acknowledge and face your own needs. This better equips you to work through your own emotions and frustrations as a parent.
Five Ways to Bond With Your Child with Special Needs
After you’ve built a support network of other parents dealing with the same challenges you deal with, it’s important that you work to actively deepen and maintain the bond with your child. Consider these tips for bonding with your child from the very beginning:
1. Physical bonding.
Infants bond via smell and touch. Mothers achieve this bond naturally through breastfeeding and cuddling. Fathers can bond this way too. Cuddle your baby on your bare chest while
he or she is wearing only a diaper. Research shows this type of contact can help initiate strong feelings of closeness and protectiveness toward your child.
2. Accept your grief.
You may have imagined all the things you’ll do with your child and the future you hope to guide him or her toward after birth. But when your special child arrives, the reality of the specialized care needs and considerable challenges your child may have can trigger deep grief and disappointment.
Recognize these feelings and accept them. As you move past this phase, you’ll begin to accept this new reality as the new normal. Remember, you are one of the most important people in the life of your child and you have the ability to provide the necessary support and love to give him or her a happy and fulfilling life.
3. Get actively involved in care.
Help your spouse or partner with the tasks of caring for your child. Change diapers, give baths, help with nighttime feedings. Talk or sing to your child. Continue taking on these evolving tasks as your child grows by taking an increasingly active role in each aspect of care, whenever possible.
4. Set aside special time for interactions and play.
From the very beginning, reserve a special time each day for just you and your child. When your child is an infant, you can read books or take short naps with him or her, while giving your baby the important skin to skin contact. As your child grows, this activity time will evolve to include other things.
5. Be your child’s biggest fan.
Show your child love in concrete ways each day, offering positive praise for tiny victories and encouraging him or her to try new and different things. This sends a powerful message that will show you love and support your child, no matter what may happen.