If you are a parent, no doubt you remember very well the day the doctor told you that you were expecting a child. When you were finally told about their gender, you went from store to store, preparing for them. Let’s fast forward to the long-awaited time, the time you at last received the newborn baby in your family. How did it feel? Maybe you felt both anxious and joyous at the same time.
Parenting comes with responsibility, but it is a rewarding path of life. Raising a child who is blind calls for more responsibility on the side of parents. For instance, a parent might need to learn new ways of playing with their kids, their reading and writing style, and more. In addition to these responsibilities, such parents deal with overwhelming emotional feelings including frustration, self-blame, unworthiness, and most of the time loneliness. These parents need support from family members, the community, civil society, and the government to be able to cope. By offering them the support and encouragement they need, you are helping them to feel less alone.
Let’s Run Through the Challenges They Face
Admittedly, providing care/support for a blind child presents its unique challenges that other parents do not always have to face.
In interview with one parent who preferred to remain anonymous in this writeup, she made this comment, “I battled with anxiety as I was trying to adapt to the way of life my baby girl is living.”
“As a single mom, at times I felt isolated having to take care of my son alone.” States Kedisaletse Baseki, a parent who provided care to a blind child.
From a personal experience, I realized from how my mom would always do things that it is exceedingly difficult for a parent with blind children to stay inside when their kids are at play. They are constantly listening to wherever the play is taking place, making sure that no one is saying something unpleasant to their child, or something that could potentially hurt their child’s feelings.
Some may even have to deal with self-blame. They may feel as though that they are not doing enough for their child and may be accusing themselves of the present circumstances. If feelings as these are not attended to by a professional therapist, by talking to friends and family, they may lead to feelings of depression and worthlessness.
We’ve looked at a few challenges parents with blind children face and we cannot cover all of them. Let’s shift gears and talk about the support they need.
Solutions to the Above Challenges
Mental and emotional support: As mentioned earlier on, these parents go through emotional devastation, and from time-to-time, they need someone to talk to. Having an ear that listens to you is far much better than dying inside and can save a million lives, increase productivity, and give hope to the recipient.
Assistive resources to continue with this support: With the introduction of the internet, blogs like this one can provide practical help to such parents and give them reason to believe in their kids. I was delighted to receive feedback from Susan Peralta who made a comment about this blog on her Facebook post. She said, “This young brother is so wonderful. He helped me understand things Beth would feel and how to help not feel sorry for her. Thank you Thabo Baseki for sharing.” Beth is blind and Susan is her mother.
On social media there are groups for parents with blind children, or parents for children with disabilities. Such parents do well to join these groups and associate with others who are in a similar situation.
The bottom line, parents and the community need to recognize that it is significant to take note of the child’s strengths and interests. That way, a parent can work with the child to boost such strengths, resulting in the child’s self-esteem being increased. A lot of blind children have grown up to successfully complete their academic life, enter the workforce, become entrepreneurs and more inspiring human figures, with an example being the website you are accessing this blog from.
Shall we conclude this article by talking for a moment about how you personally can assist?
As you are reading this article, you may not be a parent of a blind child, and with that, I commend you for reading it to this point though most of its content does not apply to you directly. However, it is important to note that it somehow relates to you in a way. For instance, you may know of someone who is parenting a child who is blind in your family/community.
What Role can you Play In Helping?
There are ways you can be helpful and supportive. Small acts of kindness mean a lot for parents of blind children. Consider this scenario, perhaps that parent is holding items on his other hand, and the other he is using it to guide the blind child. Offering to carry items may ease the process. Less than that, it might just mean opening a door for them as they are accessing a building or getting into a public vehicle and similar activities.
Some people have a norm of excluding blind children when planning for fun or educational events. This could be because of lack of knowledge, over protection, or any other reason. Whatever the reason may be, be a different organizer. First, recognize that they are capable, you can include them when planning such gatherings. Consider that despite their being blind, they are just like any other kid out there, they also want to hang around with other children and have fun with them.
Let’s Wrap It Up Here
Don’t we agree that parenting is a difficult process? What more if parents have blind children? That on its own can make it almost unbearable for the parents, but is it? Recognize the fact that every parent has challenges and show compassion. Realizing they're doing all that they can, give them a pat on the shoulder for their hard work. Spend time with such parents, ask them for specific ways you can help with, and be there for them, assist in ways you can.
DID YOU KNOW?
July is Disability Pride Month, and it presents opportunities to highlight the strength and determination these parents possess. It also opens a door to learn about parenting children with disabilities including blindness and resources that can be of great support to these parents. It starts now. Make a goal that if in your local area there is an event related to this subject in July next time, or if you have heard of a virtual event, you will attend it to learn more on how you can contribute significantly to assisting them.