Having a large extended family can be both wonderful and challenging at the same time. When we as parents start to understand our child’s diagnosis, we naturally want to share that information with our extended family. And many factors come into play as each person learns the news about their grandchild, niece, nephew or cousin.
Just like your reaction as a parent, your extended family can also go through a cycle of grief. Even if it looks different than your grief, it is still grief. Grandparents, for instance, can be especially affected. They may grieve over their grandchild’s disability and their own child’s pain. They and the other members of your extended family can benefit from support and information, too.
Give your parents and other members of your extended family opportunities to know your child as a whole person—not just a person with a disability. Help them to understand your child’s strengths and needs, and to accept him as part of the family. This can have other advantages: allowing family members to become more involved with your child may give you some much-needed time away from your caregiving responsibilities.
Read Grandparent Support Suggestions, from the National Association for Down Syndrome. Though written for grandparents of children with Down Syndrome, the suggestions are applicable to all diagnoses.
Download Grand Resources, A Grandparent's and Other Relative's Guide to Raising Children with a Disability (PDF) from the Generations United website. It offers answers to basic questions a grandparent would have if raising a child with a disability.
Some material in this article was adapted from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY)’s The Unplanned Journey by Carole Brown, Samara Goodman, and Lisa Küpper.