Homeschool parents spend a lot of time with their children. We enjoy getting to know our kids’ hearts, learning about their different personalities, and having fun together. In fact, these are just a few of the many benefits of the homeschooling lifestyle. However, just like any parent, homeschool parents sometimes need a bit of a break. It is important, whenever possible, for a couple to have regular, uninterrupted time together to focus on their relationship. When parenting one or more children with special needs, focusing on the marriage relationship becomes increasingly more crucial, yet is often even more difficult to put into play.
My husband and I have a child who is on the autism spectrum, has auditory processing disorder, as well as some sensory issues and a few minor physical limitations. Though we must parent her differently in some ways than we do our other children, she is an extremely bright child and her quirkiness actually adds to her charm, endearing her to us in many ways. Learning to understand her diagnoses as well as working to change how we respond to her has made a huge difference in the stress level in the home that can accompany the job of parenting a child with special needs. Don’t get me wrong, we still experience stressful days and moments, but by educating ourselves and relying on one another and the Lord, we are learning to manage stressful situations when they arise.
There are ways to spend quality time together focusing on your relationship with your spouse, finding the rest you need, and rejuvenating yourself even while caring for your child or children with special needs. A bit of creativity will be needed, but it IS possible.
My husband and I recently spent such a weekend in The Outer Banks in North Carolina at the Sanderling Resort. We were privileged to take our special needs daughter along with us, leaving our other children to have fun with some of their friends for the weekend. It is rare for any of our children to have more than a few minutes completely alone with us, and this was a first for an entire weekend way.
Here are a few tips for homeschool parents when traveling with special needs children that I hope will be of help to you.
Preparation has been the key to success with our daughter when planning a few hours to a full day out of the house, a weekend away, or a family vacation. When we know that we will be leaving the house or spending several days out of town, there are a few things we do to be sure we are prepared for almost any occurrence. Our daughter has a special backpack that she always takes with her on any kind of trip. We load it up with snacks, books, her special blankie, some favorite stuffed and plastic animals, a number of toy cars, crayons or colored pencils, and blank paper. These items keep her busy in the car, any time we must wait in a restaurant or while we check into a hotel, or even when we may need to be separate from others when she experiences sensory overload.
Keep your sense of humor
A sense of humor will get you a long way in this life, I’m sure most of us know that. Though our child, due to her specific issues, does not often ‘get’ humor, when my husband and I can laugh together and make light of our situation, the stress level and tension are reduced. Meltdowns, sensory issues, and extra stress are a part of our everyday lives because we are parenting a child with special needs. Learning how to calm our daughter, support one another, and accept that this is our life and it is good has been a process. Sometimes we do experience hard days. Reminding ourselves and one another that God knit our daughter together in my womb just as she is, and just as He did each of our other children, helps. In this context, we are better able to understand that God has a specific purpose for her life just as He does for our other children. He will show us how to parent her, how to guide her, and even reveal to us and to her what her specific purpose is in His timing. God has a sense of humor, too. He wants us to live life, and live it abundantly, despite our circumstances. Laughing together and identifying the irony helps heal hurting hearts and draws a couple closer to one another and to the Lord.
Choose Your battles
Each family will have different battles to fight. Some of them are worth standing your ground and following through. Others may require a bit of flexibility and a willingness to change your own heart and actions. When traveling with your special needs child, it may help to realize that if she does not eat her full meal she will be fine. A restaurant while on vacation may not be the place to try and insist she eat her peas. Eating four slices of bread (if that is all she will eat)and two bites of her chicken will suffice. You can get back to your usual schedule once you’re back home. Focus on your time together.
Children who have physical limitations may be unable or unwilling to navigate stairs or walk for long periods of time. Be prepared to carry your child through museums, when climbing the lighthouse stairs, or if you have already been out for several hours. Your child will grow tired more easily and it will take a bit of extra work from you to have an enjoyable day. Use a wheelchair, stroller, backpack, or wagon if necessary and where possible. Remember that sense of humor? This situation would be a prime time to ‘wear’ it.
If your child simply will not participate in an activity, be willing to take turns or even find an alternative activity. It is okay to change plans, ask for accommodations, or allow one spouse to enjoy an activity while the other stays at the hotel or spends time on the beach with your child.
Our recent beach stay at the Sanderling Resort was a fun and pleasant experience. Staff at the hotel and activity locations helped make it so by being extremely accommodating. Employing the above tips helped us to be flexible and prepared for change at a moment’s notice. We returned home with wonderful memories, rejuvenated, and happy that we were able to sow into our daughter’s life by spending some time away with her alone.
Do you have tips for traveling with special needs children? Tell me how you do it in the comments below!
** We received a complimentary 2-night stay at Sanderling Resort as well as complimentary tickets to the activity linked within this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
Wendy is a preschool teacher turned homeschool mama when her eldest daughter began to struggle with reading. Taking this homeschool journey was not a part of ‘the plan’ but has been rife with unexpected twists and turns, difficult days, blessings, and celebration. Wendy desires to encourage women to live life with passion and purpose no matter the circumstance. Be sure to connect with Wendy at Purpose Living Wife as well as through social media.