Parenting is hard work. As a parent of a child impacted by special needs, you will have to work even harder. Advice that you hear experts giving other parents often doesn’t work with your family. This makes one piece of expert advice even more critical—communicate.
If you are married, the need for you to communicate with each other is key. It is easy to get discouraged, not know what to do, or not know what to say. It is imperative that you work together to come up with a game plan so you know that you are both on the same team, not working against each other.
Our son has a hard time communicating with me, especially when he is struggling with a decision I have made. During these times, he will go and talk to his mom about it. She listens (so he feels heard, understood, and calms down) and then coaches him on how to come back and talk with me. Notice, she doesn’t just listen to his side and overrule what I told him. She and I have an understanding about what she is doing during this time and instead of me being offended, I can recognize it for what it is and see the value of what is happening—he is getting training in how to handle conflict and how to communicate in a more effective way. However, if Sarah and I hadn’t talked about this, it could easily appear that he was just going behind my back in these conversations. She had to intentionally take time to communicate with me how he was feeling and what she was doing with these conversations.
Here are four tips to improve how you and your spouse communicate:
1. Set an appointment – If there is something the two of you really need to discuss, don’t just dive in right before bed but let your
spouse know you need to talk and find out when would be good for them.
2. Be present – Make eye contact, put away the cell phone, laptop and other distractions. Don’t interrupt or jump in with solutions.
3. Reflect – Summarize back to your spouse what you think you are hearing them communicate.
4. Determine – Was this informational? Did your spouse just need to vent or do you need to work together for a solution?
How are you and your spouse doing with communicating? We want to hear from you. What helps you and your spouse stay on the same page?
Jonathan and his wife, Sarah, currently reside in Northeast Indiana and have been married for 16 years. He has two sons, ages 11 and 13. His journey in special needs began with the birth of their youngest son. He has his M.A. in counseling from Grace Theological Seminary and has served with Wycliffe Bible Translators for 13 years. Jonathan and Sarah are the founders of Hope Anew, a ministry that comes alongside the parents of children impacted by special needs on a spiritual and emotional level through speaking, writing, and workshops.