Five essentials for every special-needs parent

Written by Jen Forsthoff
Published on June 24, 2022

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. Many times, it takes effort and energy beyond our natural capacity. 

And if you are a parent to a child with special needs, the measure of what is required is often much greater. The needs of your child put pressures and demands on you spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. 

As a special-needs parent, I know the weight of what you carry and am learning what is essential for the health of my body, mind, and soul. 

There are some practical things we can do and maintain that will help us move beyond survival. When we apply these basic building blocks into our lives, we can thrive as parents.

1. Personal devotional time 

This is the first and most important key to our ability to thrive as a parent. We are constantly pouring out to meet the needs of our child. 

We must make time to fill ourselves up. And not just on coffee and social media. We need to fill up with good things from above. 

We need time with our heavenly father, who cares for us and has the portion we need as parents. 

Through Bible reading, devotional books, prayer, times of worship, and meditation, we can 

2. Inner circle 

Everyone needs an inner circle of people you trust and can lean on. 

Special-needs parents can often feel alone and isolated, so it is our job to create this inner circle. Your inner circle can consist of family members, faith-filled friends, mentor parents—just be sure your inner circle has people you can trust, look to for prayer, will be a source of encouragement, and also people who bring joy and can make you laugh. 

I love having a mentor parent in my inner circle, one who is a few steps ahead and can be a source of wisdom and support as I journey forward with my child.  

3. Fun 

That’s right, even though we keep our house running smoothly and keep the family schedule on track, we still need to make time for fun! 

What do you enjoy doing? What is a hobby that allows you to turn off, relax, and enjoy something just for yourself? 

So often we can get lost in our kids. Parents are at risk of losing their identity as they constantly care for the needs of their child. Make time for yourself—go to the gym, take a bike ride, read that mystery novel, play that musical instrument you used to love. 

Make time for yourself to enjoy something you love and have fun! This is good for your soul and enables you to be an even better parent!  

4. Faith community 

Being a part of a church or faith community is essential for your spiritual health. Along with personal devotions, make time to gather with other believers. 

This creates much needed time for you to set your heart on the Lord, be in his presence side by side with the family of God, and be poured into by a pastor or spiritual leader. 

God speaks into our lives in many ways, and one of the most meaningful and powerful ways is through the local church and our local church pastors. Not only will you get poured into, but your child will have the opportunity to engage and connect with people outside their typical environment. 

No church is perfect, but God made it clear in his scriptures that he wants us to join in the body of Christ as a benefit to our soul and body as a whole.  

5. See your child 

This final essential not only will be meaningful to you, but also for your child. 

So many times we are focused on the needs of our child based on their disability. In our care for them, we are constantly seeing them through the lens of what they can or can’t do, what they need from us, and how they need to grow. 

But as parents, we need to create space and time to simply see our child. We need to put away the teacher hat, the therapy hat, the doctor hat and just be mom, or just be dad. 

Look at your child, talk to them, smile at them. Cuddle them, play with them, or read a book to them. These moments of seeing our child stirs our hearts, reconnects us with our child on a deeper level, and blesses the heart of God.  

God cares for the needs of your child. And he also cares for your needs. Everything we ultimately need is found in him. 

We can hold onto the truth of God’s Word that says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26 NIV). 

Each of these essentials are practical and rooted in Godly parenting. As God continues to strengthen and equip us as parents, he will prove himself faithful, and we will see his goodness and glory on display in our lives and the lives of our children.  

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Jen Forsthoff

Jen Forsthoff is the author of Chosen for Charlie: When God Gifts You With a Special- Needs Child and Champion For Charlie: Rise Up and Advocate For Your Child. Jen and her pastor-husband, Lucas, live in Michigan with their three children. Their oldest, Charlie, was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 at birth and has opened their eyes to the needs of families just like theirs. Raising Charlie, along with her experience as a classroom teacher and in ministry, has fueled Jen’s passion to positively impact families who face the challenge of parenting a child with special needs.  She writes, speaks, and advocates for families who need a message of hope and biblical truth to shape the everyday perspective of their role as the parent and champion for their child. In both ministry and educational platforms, Jen is a voice for parents raising a special-needs child. As God has opened doors through radio, television, community events/organizations, and ministry partnerships, she continues to bring a message of hope to families. You can connect with Jen at and on Instagram @jforsthoff.

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