Why do Special Needs parents feel so guilty?

Parenting isn’t easy. Anyone can make a baby but not everyone can be a parent to that child. This holds even more truth when it comes to special needs parenting.

I don’t know anyone who’s lifelong dream is to become a special needs parent. No one wants their child to be born with special needs and many people simply can’t handle it but there are others who can rise to the occasion.

This post is directed at those who have risen to the occasion and devoted their life to their miracle with special needs.

I’ve been special needs parenting for about 14 years now and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert.

I have tons of experiences in things that most people couldn’t even imagine but that doesn’t qualify me as an expert in my book. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a special needs parenting expert because every special needs child is so profoundly different that most of us are flying by the seat of our pants, figuring things out as we go.

One of the things I’ve learned over the last decade is that no matter what our situation may be, none of us are superhuman.

What do I mean by that?

Well, I mean that the cold hard reality is that we all have limitations. That’s the very nature of being human.

We all experience a plethora of emotions when it comes to dealing with life and raising our special needs kids is no exception that rule. Somewhere along the line,  it became frowned upon to feel any type of negative emotions in relation to our amazing but challenging children. Why is that?

I think that this stems from a sense of guilt or a misunderstanding of what it means to feel things like anger, frustration, depression, wanting to give up or even resentment. 

We all know that kids with things like Autism, have little if any control over at least some of their problematic behaviors. In other words, it’s not their fault. They didn’t choose this life and I believe that things like meltdowns, are just as hard, if not more difficult for the child having the meltdown, then it is for those of us having to deal with the child having the meltdown.

From personal experience, I can assure you that I have learned what is within my kids control and what is not.

I’ll tell you something else as well. Does knowing that these behaviors are outside of their control, make dealing with them any easier? Does knowing that the meltdown isn’t their fault somehow lessen the impact said meltdown has in your life? Not a chance Hell!!!

I’m a single Father raising 3 boys with Autism and various other special needs, some very serious and others, not so much. I’m doing this on my own and with very little, if any help.

I get pissed off, frustrated, overwhelmed and even resentful when it comes to my kids at times. They can honestly drive me crazy.

Does that make them bad kids? Does the fact that I can feel these emotions towards them, somehow mean I love them less? Does this make me a bad parent? Again, not a chance in Hell!!!

If I talk about this stuff, will that make people think I have bad kids? 

Here’s the truth. Who the Hell cares!!!!!!

People are going to think what they want and you will never have any control over it. All that matters is what you know in your heart to be true. That’s easier said than done but it’s a lesson learned over many years of dealing with the public.

The bottom line is that you’re human. You’re going to feel things. It’s what you do with those feelings that matter.

I have made the choice to embrace those feelings for what they are, a reminder that I’m human and have limitations.  It’s not healthy or productive to feel guilty about these emotions but we all do this.
The key here is to recognize your limits and work within them. If you need to put yourself in time out, do it. I know that sounds silly but I do it all the time. I also write down what I’m experiencing because it helps me to process those feelings, deal with them and then put them behind me..

Talking to someone is helpful as well.

The one thing you never want to do is take it out on your kids.

I know we don’t often have the help we need and rarely get breaks.  The truth is that you’re so much better off walking out of the room for a few minutes and getting centered, rather than screaming, yelling or even worse, hitting your child.

I will say this until the day that I die. One of the toughest parts of being a special needs parent is dealing with all the emotions we experience on a daily basis.  It’s no joke and it’s certainly not easy but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  😀


  1. Kim Gebhardt

    I don’t think parental guilt is exclusively for parents of special needs kids, I think most parents have it. My best friend feels guilty because her job as an attorney means she can’t be home until 6 or 7 at night. Another friend felt guilty for moving his kids halfway across the country so he could accept a good job offer and be closer to family. My own father felt guilty for working 6 and sometimes 7 days a week or working an evening shift at higher pay so that my mother could be a stay at home mom.

    I think all parents have it. It’s human nature to want your children to have the very best and sometimes that leads to a balancing act.

  2. Jimmy Rock

    Kim has a valid point but I know what the typical response to this is: “Yeah, but everything is heightened or made more challenging if you’re a special needs parent. If you’re not, you just don’t get it.” While that may be true to some extent, the larger point is that you just don’t necessarily know what other people might be enduring. As a parent of one NT kid and one on the spectrum I see it from both sides. And yeah if both my kids were NT some things would be a lot easier. But if they were both NT I’m sure whatever struggles they were enduring would seem worse to me just because that would be my experience. I just don’t like to get into the whole “I have it worse than you do” or “you don’t understand” stuff. As parents we all have our challenges to deal with. Whether they are objectively more significant than someone else’s is irrelevant. All we can do is just try to be sympathetic and a little understanding of others and try to remember that you can never be sure of what someone else’s situation or what they are going through.

    Sorry to ramble a little bit here…

    1. Kim would have a valid point if I was making a comparison or saying the one was more difficult than the other and I’m not. Not even close.

      She’s absolutely right that all parents feel guilt. That should be obvious to everyone.

      However, I’m talking about special needs parenting because I’m a special needs parent. Making statements insinuating that I somehow believe otherwise isn’t accurate and has nothing to do with the topic of this post.

      I write about what I know and would never presume to know what someone else is dealing with, nor would I make a direct comparison without trying to make a specific point.

      Is Kim’s point valid? yes.

      Is it really relevant to what I was talking about? No, because she’s making it sound like I said something that I didn’t.

      It doesn’t matter what I say, someone will always twist it or take it out of context and while I respect everyone’s opinion, it does get frustrating..

      1. Jimmy Rock

        I’m not sure if you are taking my comment the wrong way. I don’t disagree with anything in your response. My point was more about the typical, tired response of “Well, all parents go through that” to a special needs parent’s observations. As a special needs parent I find that response frustrating and not helpful. Whatever your parenting experiences are, when someone tells you that everyone goes through the same thing (whether that’s entirely accurate or not), while it can sometimes be helpful, sometimes all it does is minimize your experiences in a condescending way. Sorry if I didn’t exactly make my point clear- it’s been a long week!

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