To all fathers of children with autism out there:
Superdads – that's what you are! Raising a child with autism has its challenges, but it definitely is rewarding. And if you didn't already know, you are a superhero in their eyes. Your sacrifice, patience, perseverance and persistence – we want to thank you for all that you do and all that you are to your child. With that, here are 7 things we want all superdads to know this Father's Day.
1. It's okay to feel.
Society has raised us to believe that men have to be tough and that they are the backbone of the family. Well, we are here to tell you that it is absolutely okay to let your guard down once in a while. It's okay to worry and have your doubts and fears. It's okay because it's real. No parent is ever prepared for the diagnosis that their child has autism. Take the time you need to process everything, then pick yourself up and be the dad you are called to be.
2. It's not your fault.
And neither is it your partner's! You are not a failure and neither is your child with autism. Stop trying to put the blame on anyone, it won't make you feel better. Your child is God's gift to you, and no diagnosis can change that. You are the best parent you can be for your child. Accept them for who they are, encourage them to grow in that and watch them flourish!
3. There are no "little" victories.
Every single milestone and achievement is a big one when it comes to autism, and each and every one of them deserve to be celebrated. Take nothing for granted. Whether it is their first word, or a successful trip to the toilet, celebrate. Find joy in these moments and you will see that the next time your child smiles, it will be that much brighter; the next time they slip their hand into yours, they will hold on that much tighter; the next time the ask for you, it will be that much clearer.
4. Your presence is everything.
Be a part of your child's everyday life. Take your child out to the playground when you get home from work. Be there at every school concert and sports day. Knowing that you will stand by them through everything no matter what, lets them know that you love them unconditionally. Even the simplest thing like holding your child's hand at the doctor's can provide the assurance and security they need.
5. Your other kids need you, too.
If you have other children, make sure they do not feel left out and constantly remind them that you love them all the same. Spend some along time with your other children so they don't feel as if all your attention is directed only towards their sibling with autism. Create a safe environment at home where they can ask any questions they may have about their sibling with autism. Talking about it can help them understand their sibling better, and this in turn can form a healthy relationship amongst the siblings.
6. Be a husband.
You and your partner were a team even before your child's diagnosis, and this cannot be more important throughout the journey. Raising a child with autism is definitely not easy, so being there for each other helps. Make sure you have some alone time, too, just you and your partner. Remember what it felt like when you first fell in love. Look for ways to strengthen your relationship as you both learn to walk through the challenges together.
7. You matter, too.
Being a parent can bring about a tremendous amount of stress at times. Take a deep breath, take a step back and think of your own needs for a moment. Yes, it is hard – your impulse would be to give your all into your child, but to be able to meet their needs, you first need to take care of yourself. Engage in a hobby of your own once in a while to recharge yourself.
Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!