Science of Parenting: The Stress of Special Needs

August 9, 2016, 8:59 am | Lori Hayungs, Laura Sternweis

AMES, Iowa – The demands of parenting often are multiplied for parents of children with special health and behavioral needs, say the Science of Parenting bloggers from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. However, these parents will be better able to provide care for their children if they also take care of themselves.

Mother and childThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 15 percent of U.S. families have a chronically ill child with special health needs. The extra demands cause stress that affects the whole family, said blogger Lori Hayungs, a human sciences specialist in family life.

“Caring for a child with special needs can require additional time, which can mean you have less time for your other children, your spouse or aging parents, who also need your attention,” Hayungs said.

“Maybe you’ve been criticized or judged by others who simply do not understand your child’s condition. You may feel isolated from other parents, because how could people who don’t have a child with special needs possibly know what you are going through?” Hayungs noted.

“Parents often are trying to learn about their child’s disability and find treatments and resources. They’re coping with the emotional and physical challenges of providing care as they coordinate healthcare treatments, advocate for their child and pay for necessary services. No wonder parents of children with special needs often are exhausted and even depressed,” Hayungs said.

Hayungs and the other Science of Parenting bloggers will offer self-care tips and resources that can help parents cope. They will discuss ways that family members can support each other. They’ll also talk about when and how to reach out for assistance. In addition they’ll explore resources for reducing stress that are available through ISU Extension and Outreach.

Learn more from tips on the blog throughout the month and in a short podcast. Through the Science of Parenting,, ISU Extension and Outreach specialists share and discuss research-based information and resources to help parents rear their children. Parents can join in the conversation and share thoughts and experiences, as well as how they handle parenting responsibilities.

The Science of Parenting from ISU Extension and Outreach also is available on Twitter and via text message.

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