Disability And The Family Life Cycle

November 28, 2012


Life has seasons, much like the seasonal changes we watch around us each year. Spring is like youth; summer is so much like young adulthood; fall is like the height of our careers when everything is bright and golden; and winter’s quiet snow is when our days slowly fade like daylight’s hours are shortened.

There are a variety of ways to look at life from birth to death. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, to everything there is a season. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Another translation says, “Everything on earth has its special seasons.”

Many people describe different seasons of their lives in terms of stages or cycles.  When children are born with a disability or adults become disabled, the family life cycle continues to run it’s course…it doesn’t stop.  Therefore, it’s important to understand how disabilities potentially impact the family life cycle.  Here are a few thoughts about disability and the family life cycle:

Marriage and Childbirth.  When a child is born with a disability, “normal” life can feel as if its coming to a screeching halt.  The dreams and aspirations for a child seems lost and the daily activities of a family change.  Parents often find it difficult to participate in religious, social, and community activities.

Families with young children/adolescents.  Some children, especially those with intellectual disabilities, do not develop past early childhood.  Children with physical disabilities may struggle with health and mobility challenges.  The teen years can also be difficult due to puberty.

Launching to Adulthood.  Normally, this is the season when young adults are going to college, living on their own, or starting a career.  But what happens when a young adult still needs help with grooming, counting money, or using transportation?  Employment opportunities and adequate housing may be limited or simply unavailable.

Middle Adults Years.  For many parents this season is characterized by looking forward to preparing for their own freedom and retirement.  Whether adult-children live at home, in a group home, or independently with support, they often remain very dependent upon their parents.

Elderly Parenting and Adult-Child Years.  This is the season of life when most parents are watching and enjoying grandchildren at play.  But for parents of adult-aged children with disabilities, these years are often filled with concerns and fears.  Parents realize that as they get older their ability to be a caregiver for their son or daughter is more limited.  This is often a source for a good deal of anxiety and depression.

Death of Parents.  For many the most difficult aspect of this season of life is simply the knowledge that death is coming.  If the adult-child has no siblings or other family support, the family’s life cycle often comes to an end.  In these cases, the adult-child may be relocated to a care facility and face isolation and loneliness.   Even in the best of situations, nothing can replace a parent’s presence in a child’s life.

I’m thankful we have the Bible to help us understand how God works in all the seasons of life to help us find faith and grow and mature. It reminds us how God works through the providences of life and fulfills His purposes in ways that at the time seem so mystifying. It calls us to examine our lives in the light of eternity.

God uses every season to teach us something, to communicate to us something about Himself, something about His faithfulness, something about His love in sending His Son, something about His strength, something about His power.

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Michael Woods

As parents of children with special needs, your lives are busy.  You’re prioritizing your children.  You’re  doing everything you can to invest in them relationally and to help them grow developmentally.   Let us partner with you in their spiritual development!

The Friends@FBO app is designed to provide you with one weekly idea that you can implement during your day-to-day routines to help nurture your child’s faith.  So, go to the Apple App Store or Android Market and download the free Friends@FBO app today!  After you download our free app, make sure to leave your “push notification” on so that you will receive alert messages when ideas for connecting with your child are posted!

Click here for the Friends@FBO app at the Apple Store.

Click here for the Friends@FBO app for Android.

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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