Closures, quarantines, and social distancing take a toll on us all. And for some, the toll is more sobering. I’m looking at you, fellow families affected by special needs and differences of all kinds. What are families who rely on school, community support, therapy, and medical accessibility supposed to do in times like these? My son’s hyperactivity is about to push me over the edge. My daughter’s daily care needs are exhausting; how am I supposed to keep up with them and complete my remote work? How will we ever gain back the hard-earned social skills we’ve been working on? The needs feel like they’re limitless, and we parents feel more and more limited by the hour. It’s all too easy to panic and become overwhelmed.
But that is not the calling on your life, child of God. Even in the darkest times, we will choose—with everything within us—to be not afraid.
As I sit in front of my computer, typing out what I pray are words of encouragement and strength, I just feel so small. But what if that’s right where God needs me to stay? What if He can use this time to show me that it’s not all up to me? What if He will do the same for you? To teach you that there’s more in you than you thought. To show you how close He is in a way that you’ll never again forget. To help you never again fall prey to the anxious lie that tells you you’re in this struggle alone.
Nine tips to help families with disabilities, differences, or special needs not just survive a quarantine, but thrive!
1. Keep a routine.
Routines create a sense of calm and order. You know this. I’m preaching to the choir here, but I have one tip you might not have thought of. Contact your child’s school or day program and ask about their typical daily routine. See how much of it you can match at home! Get a feeling for when snack times, meal times, outdoor times, physical movement times and so forth are. This will not only help your child feel a small glimmer of normalcy but will also help their transition back into programming happen more smoothly. But remember: You will not be able to keep the same routine as your child’s program. And that’s okay! Keep reading for more on that!
2. Flexibility and grace are key.
Did the “routine” tip make you sweat a little? It makes my stomach hurt, if I’m honest. I know there is no possible way I can keep up with everything an entire school of trained professionals can provide. And that’s okay! This is a different time, and different actions are required. You know what your child will learn? Flexibility! You know what you can learn? Grace! Grace for yourself: You don’t have to do it all. You’re doing your best. You can’t be everything! Grace for your child: Assume they’re doing the best they can. They may need to melt down occasionally. You can be their soft place to land when they’re feeling better.
3. Make sure you’re getting as much rest as you can.
What do you need to do, Mom or Dad, to get the emotional, mental, and physical rest you need? Rest may already have been scarce in your home. It’s just not the time for late-night googling COVID-19 updates. Close your eyes and add in as much rest as you can. What’s naturally the quietest time of your day? Is it before anyone’s awake? Is it right after bedtime? Choose that time of day for some quiet Bible reading and prayer. Don’t neglect this. It’s like your oxygen mask. Start a Bible Plan so you can have a portion of Scripture and a devotional ready for you when you need it. Ask a friend to be your prayer partner, and text one another prayer needs throughout your week. Now is not the time to start any side projects. Now is the time to rest when you can and simplify anything you can.
4. Find a distraction that’s encouraging and strengthening.
This one’s for both you and your kiddo! And let’s start with music! Music is a powerful tool in your home. Moods flaring? Language or communication skills regressing? Tension rising? The right playlist can distract your mind from negative feelings, adding peace and joy instead.
- These songs are written for the typical preschool age group. They’re delightful for kids of all ages and abilities! They teach things like how “God Made Me Amazing” and that “God Is Always With Us.”
- These songs are written for the entire Body of Christ. Put them on repeat and allow them to calm and encourage you as you worship God with them.
Does your child enjoy screen time? Going out on a limb and guessing they do! It doesn’t have to be meaningless time. There is a lot of safe and encouraging content your child can consume in small amounts each day. Maybe it can become a quiet and peaceful time of day for you, too!
- Check out this page for entertaining spiritual education videos and more from ages 2 and up!
5. Check with your therapists and other care providers for online alternatives.
Yeah, pretty much everything in real life is canceled for weeks. But, this is the communication age! My son’s therapist has already contacted me to see if we’d like to do video-based sessions for the foreseeable future. Check in with your providers and see if they can do anything by phone or video. Even many medical checkups and evaluations are being done via video at this time. It might not be optimal, but it’s better than nothing!
6. Create new goals that you can help your child crush!
There has never been a better time to work on self-care skills than now! The bus isn’t two minutes away, so it doesn’t matter if it’s going to take your daughter all morning to put on her shoes. You’ve never had a better time to go slowly! And you’ve never had a better time to cheer your child on for the life skills they’re working on. Has God been working on your heart to stop pushing your child’s life onto your timeline instead of His? Just me? Okay. Moving on.
7. Let’s think: physically distant, but socially connected.
There’s something about the term “social distancing” that just feels wrong—hurts feelings, even. We in the disability community are often sore from wounds of being left out either intentionally or just because so much of the social world is just too much for our kids. And we feel so grateful for the hard-earned social connections our families make. Right now, we’re all physically distant, yes. Whatever it takes to reduce the overwhelm the novel coronavirus could cause. But socially? Um, do you have a phone? A computer? Pen, paper, and a stamp? I bet you’ve got at least one of the above! Teach your child how to text and send a message to their grandparents! FaceTime someone you normally see throughout your week just to check in and stay connected. Watch Life.Church Online as a family if you can. I mean, here’s a guide for having church at home with your family. See? Physical distancing doesn’t have to ruin our social connection!
8. God is always closer than you think.
God, where are You in the middle of my anxious thoughts? I have news for you. There are many of us who will look back on this time of quarantining as the closest we’ve ever felt to God. Here’s the thing—God is always there. Like, right there. With you. If you’re a follower of Christ, God’s Holy Spirit is inside you! In this strange, slowed, quieter time, you may notice His presence more tangibly. You are not in this alone. Your strength may fail, but God’s power is made perfect in your weakness. You will get to have a close-up view of the power of God at work in you and your family. Ask God to help you see the unique way He is working in your child. Pray out loud when stress is high. Sense His presence in ways you may never have before. And thank Him for it!
9. Remind yourself that it’s a season that won’t last forever.
When the days are getting too long, the nights aren’t restful, and everything’s getting to be too much, it can help to remember that this is just a season. Your normal routines will return. Your therapists, care providers, and community support will be back in your life. It’s a hard season. But seasons aren’t forever. Hang in there, precious parent! Take heart, and use the tools described above to help you and your family get through the bumpy days and thrive through the rest of this season. Meanwhile, we, the family of God, will continue to lean in to His presence and be the light this world needs.