Cultivating community within the intricacies of parenthood can be daunting. Parents of children with special needs are especially in a complex paradox because they want to chat, however, they understand people’s privacy as it pertains to their child, so they say nothing. Parents also desire the connection and feel the information online is intimidating.
Parents of special needs children need community. Building a village that understands the plight of special needs and its hardships can be a cumbersome task. but it’s needed in order to sustain a level of sanity and feelings of support and understanding.
Without community, parents are more susceptible to lose themselves and neglect parts of who they are, they are at an increased risk for disregarding their own health and they unintentionally scale back on the level of attention given to their spouse or significant other.
Moms have created spaces to connect via technology, by leveraging online platforms such as Facebook and by creating apps to begin the conversations that will hopefully formulate into a beautiful connection, sisterhood or mom tribe.
Some apps have created a feature within them to connect special needs moms, such as the Peanut App. Another app, Wolf + Friends, took the idea of forming community among special needs parents to the next level. Founders Gena Mann and Carissa Tozi created a community to fill a void they knew so many other parents probably desired.
Simply put, a tribe is an integral component of the parenting experience for special needs parents. Consider this acronym to help you navigate building your tribe: “Think for a S.E.C,”
- Select the group or communities to explore. Create a shortlist of online communities to join, apps to download or support groups to attend. This will help you jumpstart the process of creating your tribe.
- Engage with the community. Joining a group online, downloading an app or meeting up is half the battle. Actively engaging is how you begin to foster relationships.
- Connect by being vulnerable. Vulnerability is where parents meet one another in the special needs community. It solidifies the connection and solidifies trust.
Parents need communication with other parents like them in a judgment-free zone. Parents also need a sense of knowing they are in good company with individuals that may serve as a resource.
“Having someone who’s walked in your shoes to talk to creates a sense of trust. When you’re just working with professionals you always have in the back of your head, ‘That’s all well and good, but you don’t live this every day,” says Robin Dodds, an assistant professor of early childhood special education at Cal State L.A and board member of Parent To Parent USA.
Starting today by downloading an app, joining an online community and connecting with parents who get it. Don’t be afraid to join the conversation, it can be therapeutic, and you may find the tribe you need.
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