I never could have guessed that being a special needs parent could be so lonely. Sometimes…perhaps often…life gets in the way of our best intentions. A child’s diagnosis often increases psychological stressors, therapy schedules stretch the daily “to do” list to the breaking point, and slowly the network of friends you had begins to fall by the wayside.
The pressure of day-to-day parenting can distract from the desires of the heart to be part of a social circle. Who doesn’t desire to have a trusted circle of friends? Friends that will be there for you thru the thick and thin of life. That comes as no surprise because parents of children with special needs are made in the image of a relational God, and as such, created for relationships with others.
The wonder of the Internet is the ease with which we can create a relational support network, a community, a web of encouragers from around the world. Blogs, social networks and community sites are all ways we find each other. We find other parents who ‘get us’ and accept us because they too have been there, done that, and are still wearing the t-shirt.
Updating your Facebook status or a publishing a blog post is the modern equivalent of pouring a hot cup of green tea on a cold afternoon and fluffing the pillows on the sofa. We are welcoming each other into our lives. Our communities of internet friends live across our neighborhoods, towns and often across the world. And yet, at times, it seems as if they are right next door.
When I explain to my wife that Facebook friends I’ve come to know want to meet for lunch as they travel to Orlando, she laughs and says she never imagined it would happen. But it has. And as a result, several of my online parent friendships have become real world parent friendships.
Our encouragement groups thru Not Alone, our network of fellow-parents, is unaffected by distance and almost always available. From prayers sent for healing from around the world, to tearful video chats that soothe troubled hearts, to sharing pictures of a little one’s first day of school, our online community is strong and real. This short email that I received is a testimony to the power of online community:
- “When I first discovered Not Alone, I was a mess. My son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s and I didn’t know much about it. I was scared that he wouldn’t be able to reach his potential. I was scared that my former happy, sunny child had disappeared, to be replaced by a very anxious, unhappy boy. I was suffering clinical depression and on anti-depressants. I came to Not Alone and immediately many members stepped in to encourage and pray for me. We had therapy from an excellent clinic, but we wouldn’t have made such leaps and bounds without the other parents at Not Alone.”
God made us for love. He gives us the ability to share, to grow, to love, to build one another up, and do wonderful things for His glory. The power of our networks of friends and communities of moms and dads working together in love is a powerful force for good…and for change…both personal and communal.
My message is one of thankfulness and encouragement. I have been blessed by the love and support of so many other parents on our online space. Keep building, moms, keep loving each other. Keep reaching out, dads, and shining your light in this world. The courage to share your lives, your words, and your faith touches more parents than you will ever know. Some of them will become good friends…and some just might come visit you for lunch one day!
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