Congratulations! You're having a twins! How exciting and beautiful for you! Until the doctors give you devastating news that one of your babies has cerebral palsy... Or, when you bravely decide to have another child after your first child has cerebral palsy, only to discover your second baby also has mobility issues... Or, you're a single mom as your former husband couldn't take the stigma of having a son with Down syndrome and left the family with no forwarding address... Or, you struggle with the decision to place your child in a state-run institution or face unemployment... Or, or, or? The parenting stories are endless. One can sit around in a pity party, but most parents do not have the time or resources to waste. They demonstrate enormous strength and perseverance to keep going and to seek answers to honor their special needs child.
At Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre in Lviv, Ukraine, one way parenting strengths and capabilities are developed is in a monthly support group. They discuss research, activities, medical issues, and volunteer activities at the center. They seek strength and communication with each other in a supportive manner. They share ideas, empathy, and make connections for mutual understanding and resources. People are their greatest resources, especially each other. Telling stories and listening to each other relieves pressure in a non-judgmental way. Someone once said, “No man is an island.” This is never more true than when being the parent of a child with special needs or illness.
The awe-inspiring strength and compassion that it takes parents to get out of bed on a daily basis to face another day of gut-wrenching disability issues is amazing. The support group provides creative ideas, emotional safety without judgment, and open communication. This group has become a vital link for parents to remember they need balance in their lives by encouraging self-care. Use of emotional, spiritual, and physical care means learning how to ask for help. Comfort and swallowing one’s pride have been themes when seeking advice. Parents quickly learn they can’t get help if they don’t ask for it. This group provides a safe place to do so.