Special Parents Confidential: Family Stress

The following is from Special Parents Confidential: Family Stress, a podcast interview with Jean Holthaus, a licensed independent social worker with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services’.

Parenting Concerns for the Special Needs Child

Having a special needs child always causes tremendous parenting concerns and a lot of work. Many moments can be incredible, exhilarating, and full of amazing wonder. But it can also be extremely stressful. Dealing with schools, social situations, family situations … it can seem like everywhere you turn is another opportunity for more parenting concerns and stress. The other problem is that not everyone understands or even cares about these situations, so many parents can feel isolated in their worries and concerns.

Family Stress 

So what can you do to help you deal with all these stresses and keep yourself from coming apart at the seams? Our guest on this episode has some great advice. Jean Holthaus is a licensed independent social worker with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. She specializes in dealing with anxiety issues, parenting concerns and family issues, and working with special needs children. You’ll also find out about setting boundaries for special needs children, dealing with emotions including anger in children and adults, and how to deal with school anxiety issues. Jean also talks about great resources for parents to access that can help with numerous situations for schools, home, and social situations.

Excerpt from the show

John Pellegrini (interviewer):

You stress the importance about setting boundaries with special needs children. Can you give me some details about how parents can get that established?

Jean Holthaus:

I think what tends to happen is it’s always difficult to set boundaries with children in the best of circumstances, but when you have a special needs child, often parents will err either on one side or the other. They will either continue to expect that child to function as though they didn’t have some special needs or concerns, or out of guilt or fear of asking too much, they don’t set boundaries, because they don’t want to ask more than they should.

Either of those ditches end up with a very frustrated child or a very out-of-control child. So it’s important to identify what is this child capable of doing, and if they’re capable of doing it, they should be required to do it. Just the same as you would do with a normally able child, if you have a child that has special abilities, you have to set the boundary on the basis of what they are capable of doing. And then expecting that of them rather than compensating for them, or expecting them to do things they are not capable of and giving them consequences if they can’t.

John Pellegrini (interviewer):

I know we’ve made some mistakes, too, with our son. We tended to think he wasn’t capable of doing things, and it turned out he proved to us he’s more than capable on a lot of things.

Jean Holthaus:

Right, and children don’t mind playing that game. If they can get you to do something for them, they will, because it’s to their benefit!

John Pellegrini (interviewer):

What about kids who are unable to speak but can still understand what’s being said to them.

Jean Holthaus:

We’re always communicating even if we can’t understand language. We develop ways to communicate with our children, even if they can’t speak. So you want to go through those avenues to continue to set boundaries as well. You may not be using words to set the boundaries; you may be using actions in whatever way is appropriate for them, given the way they are communicating with you.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

The Latest Newsroom content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to Mental Health Matters

Subscribe Today

Mental Health Matters!

Stay informed through news, stories, interviews, resources and more.