We are often so caught up in trying to do everything we can for our children, we lose sight of what is important. In the moment, everything is critical: find the right therapist, craft the perfect IEP, create tangible goals, keep up with every recommended doctors appointment.

My oldest son is 5 years old and I am already exhausted. At times, I am so busy trying to make sure I’m doing everything right for him and his siblings that I can’t see the forest for the trees.

But that’s what the Center for Family Involvement is for. We have a network of peers and elders to lean on and go to for advice. And I did just that.

I asked these other parents, if you could tell your younger self something, what would it be? If you could turn back time and do something differently for yourself or your family, what would you change?

Here are their responses:

You are stronger than you realize.

Your child’s needs are not your fault so please go easy on yourself.

It is okay to stop, take a breath, enjoy your child, and to say “No” to doctors and therapists once in a while.

As much as possible, parent a child with special needs as you would parent any child. Have high expectations and high hopes. Then, be OK if things don’t work out as well as you would like.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I would have worked to make my daughter more independent at school starting from the beginning. My child is blind and I wish that early on we would have encouraged her to do for herself instead of having everything set up and given to her. 

All of those people who offer to help: gather their names and phone numbers. Ask them to babysit. An hour or two a week just to get away and be alone would have been helpful.

Google disability. Learn everything you can about what your child is dealing with. Find a support group with other parents whose children have similar challenges as yours.

Don’t measure your child by other children, listen to YOUR child.

If your support group isn’t supportive, find another one.

Plan for the future and plan early.

Make time for your relationship.

Find friends who are not parents of kids with disabilities too. Watch kids without disabilities to understand and gain a realistic perspective of what is developmentally appropriate.

Love your child for who he or she is. Take time to play with your little one.

Hold that baby. Don’t be afraid of tubes or wires or whatever else is attached. Just hold him.

If I could turn back time, I would focus on my son being a kid like anyone else. And I would pay more attention to his siblings.

Enjoy every minute of babyhood. There is a tendency to go online and research all of the potential problems. To stress about milestones. But in reality, right here, right now, you have a beautiful baby you need to enjoy and love. Stop stressing and enjoy the small moments. Those baby days go by in a flash.

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