Special needs parents experience 5 phases as they adjust to their new role and family dynamic. The phases are outlined in my book, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special Needs Family. They mirror the journey Paul was on in Acts 27 as he sailed for Rome but found himself in unexpected situations. The first phase is recognizing Plan B. Phase 2 is recovering and rebuilding rhythms that work for your family. In phase 3, parents must reinforce their faith foundation. Phase 4 includes renewing relationships with family members and friends.
Let’s check in on Paul near the end of chapter 27. “But striking a reef, they ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.”
As the ship crashed onto an unknown island, the other sailors wanted to throw Paul and the other prisoners overboard to their deaths. Going through stressful situations together doesn’t always bring out the best in people. We’ve had to learn how to strengthen the most important relationships in our lives so we can go forward together. I saw that in my family growing up as a special-needs sibling, and I see it now in my own family. We don’t want to leave any man behind as we continue this journey.
In this phase, special needs parents are ready to look around to see who is still standing beside them.
They have the energy to invest in the relationships because they have accepted Plan B, established good routines in their homes, and have a renewed faith in God. Now they want to nurture their relationships with spouses, typical kids, extended family members, and friends.