Raising a Child With Down Syndrome: Helpful Tips
Raising a child with Down syndrome can be scary. It's hard to know what to expect and when to expect it. But with this guide, you'll learn how to embrace the challenges that come with raising a child with Down syndrome. From understanding the condition and its associated therapies, to learning how community programs can help your family cope through some of the tougher times, we've compiled everything you need here in one place!
Don't take it personally
If you have a child with Down syndrome, it's possible that you have been on the receiving end of the following comments:
“Something must be wrong with your parents!”
“You should be grateful for a healthy baby even if it doesn't look exactly like you expect it to.”
“I would never want to raise a special needs child because I don't know how hard it is for them and their families. If I can't give 100% to my children in everything they need, then why bother? Why put all that extra stress on me and my family? Kids are supposed to be easy; we shouldn't have to work that hard at parenting! Special needs kids just aren't worth the trouble."
Remember the person comes before the condition
The first thing to remember is that your child, who has Down syndrome, is a person first. The diagnosis may change their life in many ways (and it certainly will for you), but it does not define them. It does not dictate who they are or what they can do with their lives.
It's okay to ask questions about what's going on in your child's mind or body—you're allowed to be curious about this new information! Be sure to always approach the conversation from an "I" perspective (what I'm feeling) rather than an "it" perspective (how my child is doing). Some examples:
"When I see my son struggling with something and I think he shouldn't be having trouble because he has Down syndrome, I feel frustrated."
"My daughter just started walking and people keep telling me how great it is that she can walk at such an early age, but all I'm thinking about is how hard she must have been working at therapy every day."
It's OK to ask for help
You don't have to do it all yourself. It's okay to ask for help, and there are many people who can lend a hand with tasks and responsibilities. Whether you're in need of assistance from friends, family members or professionals—or all three—you'll be glad that you asked when the time comes.
Acknowledge feelings of grief
It's OK to feel sad and angry. It's normal to cry, or feel like you want to throw something across the room. Don't be afraid to show emotion; it won't make you a bad parent or mean that you don't love your child as much as someone else does. Your feelings are real and valid, so allow them to exist without judging yourself for having them.
The first step in moving past these emotions is acknowledging them: "I'm feeling sad because I wish my child could walk." Or "I'm angry because this situation is unfair." Once you've done that, it's time to take action and do whatever needs doing—whether that means talking with a friend about what happened or going out into the world and doing something productive (like volunteering at Children's Hospital).
It's not about being perfect
Being a parent isn't about being perfect. It's about the person, not the condition.
It's not about being a super parent, it's about being a good enough parent to your child with Down syndrome.
You don't have to be perfect; you just have to be good enough — and really all we want is for our children to be happy and healthy, so if we can do our part in that endeavor by showing them love and support, then what more could anyone ask for?
Get your child involved in activities early
You can begin introducing your child to activities as soon as you know they are on the spectrum. It doesn't have to be a formal program or structured activity, but rather something that involves them in an activity with other children their age. For example, if your child is interested in playing with toys, take him or her over to the play area and let him or her join other children at playtime. You could also take a walk outside together and see what kind of things interest your child—perhaps he'll want to look at bugs, or maybe she'll want to chase after birds! Whatever it is, encourage it; getting involved in activities early helps prepare them for later life where they will need skills like socializing and communicating effectively (which we'll discuss later).
Explore state and local programs, too
There are a variety of programs for children with Down syndrome. Most states, as well as many local communities, have one or more organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities. These programs often offer support groups, educational workshops and other opportunities for families to get involved in their community. They can also be a great place to find other parents who have children with Down syndrome.
Down syndrome doesn't have to be as daunting as it sometimes seems.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition, not a disease. It's also one of the most common genetic disorders, occurring in one out of every 700 to 800 babies born in the United States.
For most parents, learning that their child has Down syndrome is an emotional shock. And while it can be daunting at first to learn how to care for your child and manage his or her health concerns, you shouldn't despair: With proper support and information, raising a child with Down syndrome can be extremely rewarding.
Fortunately, there are many resources available for parents who want to learn more about caring for their children with Down syndrome—and plenty of online communities where you can talk with other parents who are going through similar situations themselves.
Additionally, each individual person with Down syndrome will have different characteristics and needs based on various factors (such as age), so it's important not to generalize about what life is like for all individuals affected by this condition; but one thing holds true across the board—the condition affects every child differently!
Raising a child with Down syndrome is a big responsibility, but it doesn't have to be as daunting as it sometimes seems. You can make life easier for both you and your child by knowing what to expect and how best to prepare for it. You don't need to be perfect, but you do need to understand that there will be times when things don't go according to plan. Keep an open mind and keep communicating with others who have gone through similar experiences so they can help guide you along the way!