May 15, 2018 marks this year’s observance of International Day of Families. 

Created by the United Nations in 1994, its goal is to promote awareness of the many ever-changing social and economic issues that affects the family unit.

We have four children; two of whom have a variety of special needs-both medical and behavioral.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic day to day life that is special needs parenting, but the purpose of International Day of Families is to promote family bonding.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a family with special needs is being able to include everyone in every activity that we do.

The theme of this years’ International Day of Families is “Families and Inclusive Societies”.

Since this is a global day of observance, inclusion may look different from one region to another, and from one family to another.

For us, it means making an honest effort do more things as a family unit.

To a parent of any child with special needs, the holy grail is a society that accepts their child’s differences unconditionally, so I’m kind of thinking we are defeating the purpose by staying home or having one parent go somewhere with a couple of the kids while the other stays home- just because it’s easier.

Sometimes the reasons for staying home are valid, but it’s also easy to fall into the trap of making excuses to justify why we can’t do certain things.

Fear of dealing with meltdowns, having to carry necessary yet cumbersome medical equipment around, or trying to reign in our youngest son, who is very high energy, has no fear of strangers, and has obvious facial differences that tend to get a lot of whispers and stares.

It’s a lot. 

When the kids were younger and the medical and behavioral issues in particular were at a peak, I would see social media posts of friends on family outings and vacations and feel so envious that we weren’t able to do those sorts of things; that just wasn’t our reality most of the time. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and has had a revolving door of emotional triggers so taking her anywhere outside the house felt like we were playing Russian Roulette. A lot of the time either my husband or I stayed home with her for her own well-being.  But even now that the kids are older and some of the behavioral issues have subsided, there is still comfort in our safety net of home.

My goal on May 15th is to put the fears and excuses aside and do a local family outing. We may not always be able to pull it together and get out as much as we want; we are definitely a work in progress, yet I am determined to make the effort because I know that it will not only benefit our family but give us the opportunity to educate and promote inclusion for kids like ours.

Whether we choose to go out or stay home there are dozens of ways that we can be intentional in bonding as a family. Here are just some I hope to try in the near future that will ensure that everyone can participate.

We can unplug our electronics and have a game night or watch a movie.

We can find a simple meal that everyone can participate in helping to prepare.

We can attempt a movie at the “dollar” theater- that way if someone doesn’t last the whole movie we are not out a lot of money.

We can go to a local park and take a picnic lunch.

We can go on a short hike locally.

This list will grow, as we find out what works for us and what doesn’t, and I am looking forward to creating more intentional bonding time for our family, one step at a time.

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