Family celebrations are great aren’t they?

They give us the opportunity to think about good things that have happened, and to remember them with the people that are closest to us. 

Big family occasions are an important part of that, whether it’s wedding, a baby’s christening, a great big picnic in the park, or the annual Christmas get together, they can all be great times.

As we celebrate the ‘International Day of Families’, we might think of our family, or of the families of people we know… Families that come in all shapes and sizes, big families, small families. 

We might remember some good times we’ve had with our families, and we might remember some difficult times too.

But our families can be more than just the people we are related to by birth, long-term relationships, adoption, etc. 

Sometimes there are people who feel like family, who we treat like family, who have no traditional relationship to us at all. 

This can especially be the case for those of us that have children with additional needs or disabilities, where there are some key people in our lives that can be very much our ‘family’. 

Who is in yours?

In ours we have the friends that just ‘get it’…  People who we don’t need to explain things to, people that we can totally rely on, people who will listen to us when it’s tough, and will roll their sleeves up to help us out even when it’s at the worst possible time for them.  Do you have friends like that?  They can be invaluable!

Then we have the folk who support us and are carers for our son, James (aged 15, Autistic, with Learning Disability and Epilepsy). 

People who love him enough to care for him in every way, including the ‘yucky stuff’ and keep on smiling. 

People who will sit with him, help him know what is going on and what is happening next so that he can prepare for it. 

People that will help him bathe, help him to bed, and will treat him as their own.

When we take James to church, there are friends there that care for him too, people who gladly give of their time to support James, help him to really belong, ensuring that he has the very best time there possible.

And there are the professionals, the people who engage with James to help him learn, who help him with his anxiety, to support him in many, many ways.

When we think about all of these people, people who we really couldn’t do without, people who we are in contact with all the time… these people are an extended family to us. 

The relationships we have with them are just as precious, just as meaningful, just as loving as they would be with a cousin or an aunt or even a grandparent.

We all, as parents of children with additional needs or disabilities, have extended families like this. 

Extended families that help us to survive, to function, sometimes even to thrive! 

So, as we think about the International Day of Families, let’s celebrate not just our immediate family, whatever size and shape that might be, and celebrate our wonderful extended families too!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can be guilty of taking our extended family for granted, so on this special day let’s make sure we thank them, celebrate them, and show them how much they mean to us… they are our ‘family’ after all! 

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