In every family, grandparents play a hugely important role, both in the life of the child and as a support for parents. For a special needs family, this special relationship can be even more meaningful.
If your new granddaughter or grandson has been born with special needs, this can be a confusing and stressful time for you as well as for your child.
You probably have a lot of questions and are experiencing a flood of emotions.
You may never have heard of the condition, or if you have, you may not know exactly how it will affect your grandchild.
Knowledge is power – try to find out more about your grandchild’s condition.
As well as helping yourself, you will be more useful to your child if you know a bit about what your grandchild is facing.
If you have access to the internet, most conditions – even rare ones – will have at least one charity or specialist organisation dedicated to it, and chances are they have a great website.
Most sites will have a section for ‘frequently asked questions’ and many have online forums where you can have conversations with other people living with the condition.
If you’re not an internet user, search your local library for books. Have a chat with your GP – they should be more than happy to talk things through, and may be able to provide you with information leaflets and point you in the direction of useful sources of help and support.
Becoming a parent can be overwhelming – as you will know!
Having a child with special needs brings an added set of worries and things to learn.
There are lots of things you can do to help.
If your child has other children, you could help here, both with childcare and with helping kids adjust to life with a sibling with additional needs.
Explaining things to them, and also making sure they are getting enough attention and care could be an invaluable help to the whole family.
Be there as a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on if needed – chances are your child is trying to cope with a lot of new information, as well as taking care of a new baby.
Give advice and support if needed – but try to avoid being critical.
The last thing any parent of a newborn wants to hear is that you would do things better!
Ask them what they need and find out from them what practical things you can do to help.
Let them know you’d like to be involved – if they want.
Perhaps you could go along to some therapy sessions or hospital visits?
It could help you to understand more about your grandchild’s needs and may be reassuring for your child to know another adult in the family is up to speed with your grandchild’s treatments and plans.
When I was a child, I knew that a visit to my grandparents meant fun.
Whether it was baking buns and learning to knit with my Granny, to learning card games and silly songs from my Grandpa – they filled every visit with things we all enjoyed.
Although it’s important to understand their additional needs, remember that your grandchild is an individual – build a relationship with them, not their diagnosis.
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