Supportive relationships might be the most important resource in your parenting toolbox

Parents Vanessa and Dean talk about how building a network of support helped them navigate through the initial years of their child’s disability.

Parenting always comes with its own challenges, especially when raising a child with disability or developmental delays. It’s common to feel stress and anxiety when coming to terms with your child’s progress; feelings that can place a strain on family connections and relationships. While there is a natural focus on the child with disability, it’s important to consider the wellbeing of the whole family. Building and maintaining resilient relationships can help.

We talked to Vanessa and Dean to understand how various relationships became their support system.

Seeking support after diagnosis

When Vanessa and Dean’s first child Vivienne was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, it was a difficult time for them.

“Dean and I cried all the way home from the children’s hospital and all that night. We just felt heartbroken.”

Vanessa says that although receiving the news of Vivienne’s disability was hard, once they had a diagnosis, they were able to focus on learning as much as they could and start figuring out where to go for help.

Seeking help is an important step in the journey. Building relationships with people that can support you – either in person, online, or even over the phone – can ease some of the pressure that comes with raising a child with disability.

Building a network of support

“Telling family and friends was difficult, but once it was out, it was easy. I could rely on them for support.”

Even though Vanessa and Dean’s families live interstate, Vanessa says being able to talk to her mother regularly gives her strength.

Along with bringing your family on to this journey, it’s important to create a network of support around your child – childcare, school, therapists, parent circles, and online groups.

“At first I felt very isolated having child with a disability,” Vanessa says. “Connecting with other parents and children didn’t come easy. Now I know how important it is for Vivienne and myself to have those people around us. I started building a community around us and childcare has become a huge support for us.”

Vanessa also found comfort and encouragement being part of various online groups set up by other parents in a similar situation.

Watch this space for Vanessa’s tips on importance of nurturing sibling relationships and bringing the family together as a unit.