Help for special needs parents

Photo taken from -
Photo taken from -

This past week had me reeling with emotions. From the sadness that enveloped when I heard of the manner in which eight-year-old Mukeisha Maynard died exactly a week ago, to the anger and confusion that it was possibly at the hands of her own father, Michael Maynard. The child was beaten with a cutlass by her father after she wet the bed. She died hours later and he subsequently took his own life.

From the horror of the morbid photos I can't unsee, of the four young men who were shot to death in a car in Rancho Quemado last week, to the triumphant disgust I felt when former police officer Harry Ramlochan lost his appeal at the high court for raping a teenager who had gone to the San Fernando police station with her mother to report a domestic dispute about 18 years ago. Ramlochan was convicted of raping the then 17-year-old at the station.

The empathetic pain I feel for these victims and their loved ones is nothing short of overwhelming – a feeling that is not an uncommon one for me, especially in my role as a parent. I was overwhelmed by postpartum depression as a new mother, and I've felt like I was swimming out of my depth on many occasions since. When bills inundate me; when there is still month at the end of the money; when my pre-menstrual symptoms rear their ugly heads without fail every single month; when I can't get my 11-year-old to settle own and do his homework; when he is sick; when I am sick but can't take a sick day; when tragedy hits home – the list is long.

I am fortunate in that my first responders – my village – has never failed me. I can unexpectedly pop in at the homes of my parents, any of my siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and a select few friends and get a hot meal, take a nap, have a good laugh or cry, vent, anything. My cousin, Nadia even has a pair of comfy laps and absorbent shoulders that are always available. I can attest because I've made good use of them before. And if it gets to the point where I need to seek professional help, my pay cheque, with a bit of a squeeze, will allow me to pay for it. I always wonder, though, about parents who don't have a village to turn to at times when they need to offload some emotions or to get a break from the stresses of life? Where do they go if they can't afford to pay for a little release in the office of a professional? How do they cope?

I am well within my right to be angry at Mukeisha's father for failing his children, but I am also in no position to judge him because I had no idea what was going on behind his closed doors or in his mind. I can be angry at her mother for failing her, but I know absolutely nothing of their situation and I can't offer an opinion on how things escalated to the point that an innocent child ended up being the loser. Michelle Alexander, the mother of two of the Rancho Quemado murder victims admitted that the elder of the two, Antonio Alexander, would not have fallen in the "good boy" category. But he was still her son and she should be allowed to grieve. And I'm certain the mother of the young woman who was raped had, and maybe still has to fight with the emotional demons that emerged on that day 18 years ago.

All parents find themselves on the emotional roller coaster at some point, with some being able to cope better than others. Maybe they are battling with the system in order to get the proper care for their special needs children in a society where it seems enough isn't being done to cater to the needs of these children, or they are struggling to keep financially afloat amid the rising cost of just about everything. Whatever the cause of their distress, parents ought to be able to have an outlet for emotional release and where they can find support for their needs. In addition to engaging in activities such as meditation, yoga, eating well and getting enough sleep, there should be support groups targeting these special needs parents in communities, churches, schools, work, at public health facilities – where an overwhelmed parent can just go to talk, have a cup of tea or coffee, shed tears without being judged, or just to get away even for a short while to recharge.

Next week we will look at programmes offered by the government, non-governmental organisations, churches and other institutions for parents who need it and how they can be accessed.


"Help for special needs parents"

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