Hi Sunrise Families! This week’s blog is a little different. It was written by one of our parents who has a disability, Ashley Taylor. Ashley runs www.disabledparents.org and is active in getting the word out on narrowing the divide of stress that disabled parents can experience as they try to navigate parenting for the first time. I found her article to be helpful for new parents as well as older members of your family, like grandparents, who may want to be more involved in your child’s life. Thank you, Ashley, for writing this for our parents at Sunrise Montessori! ~ Shannon
5 Ways to Optimize Your Parenting Game When You Have a Disability
by Ashley Taylor, www.disabledparents.org
As a parent with a disability, you’ll face many of the same challenges that all new parents have to deal with. Your disability is just another thing to factor into your parenting preparations, and certainly not something that will affect your ability to be an amazing parent. Of course, disabled parents will have to overcome a bit of a learning curve as they find unique ways to tackle the tasks of parenthood. Here are some tips that work for EVERYone and can help you get a jump start before diving into the deep end of Parenthood!
#1 Plan for the Future
Before you start planning to welcome your child into the world, think a bit farther down the line. Every parent should set up a safety net in case something unexpected happens in the future. Do you have a will (you can make one online here)? Life insurance? If you don’t have these in place yet, they are easy to do and inexpensive.
#2 Look for Accessible Baby Products
Many parenting tasks, like reaching into a crib, carrying a baby around, and fastening a child into the car, can be challenging for people with disabilities. Fortunately, you can buy accessible baby products (or modify your own) so that these actions are easier and safer. For example, side-opening cribs and swiveling car seats are helpful for parents in wheelchairs. If you have limited upper mobility, consider buying a changing pad with upright sides to keep your baby from rolling around. In one study, disabled mothers reported that baby carrier wraps are extremely helpful around the home.
#3 Learn as Much as Possible About Parenting
Disability or not, one thing that all expectant parents need to do is learn about childcare. Take the time to read about different parenting styles and decide with your partner how you’re going to raise your child. This can help you maintain consistency in your parenting and avoid conflict later on. Also, try to find some local parenting classes where you can learn how to take care of your baby from day one. You may even get lucky and find special classes for parents with disabilities. First aid and safety classes are also highly recommended for parents.
#4 Make Alterations to Your Home
Modifying your home is key to the safety and ease with which you complete your daily parenting tasks. If you’re in a wheelchair, consider widening your doorways with offset hinges and adding a ramp to your front entrance. If you don’t have the budget to install a wheelchair-accessible sink for baby’s bath time, try setting up a bathing area on a desk with a large plastic tub. For people with vision impairment, installing grab bars in the bathroom, using textured tape to label baby food, and eliminating tripping hazards from the floor can be helpful. Better yet, consider adding non-slip flooring or mats to areas of your home where you will spend a lot of time carrying your child, like in the kitchen and playroom. If you’re a homeowner, you may be able to refinance your home to pay for more expensive alterations. Refinancing will allow you to decrease the equity in your home for a cash payout, which can then be spent on accessibility modifications.
#5 Learn from Others
Finally, take advice from other disabled parents who are finding new ways to excel at parenting. For example, some parents find it works well to play with their children in side-opening cribs rather than on the ground. Online support resources, like AbleThrive.com, provide advice on overcoming unique challenges you may face in parenthood, such as how to get your kids in and out of the car as a paraplegic. Similarly, you can find tips from parents from the Disabled Parenting Project, where people share their instructions for special DIY baby products and advice on how to approach challenging activities like breastfeeding.
The more preparations you can make before your child is born, the easier it will be to adapt to life as a parent. This will help your baby grow up safe and happy while reducing your risk of injury. Additionally, remember that self-care is vital to your mental health, so don’t be afraid to lean on your support network when you need to take a time-out for yourself.
Taking the stress out of parenting makes for a happier family. And that’s something everyone can get behind.
You can read more articles like this on www.disabledparents.org.