“I Can’t Do This!”: Facing Your Limitations as a Special-Needs Parent

shutterstock_158472119Editor’s note: Dr. Karen Crum is graciously guest blogging for us today. Click here to check out her guest post from last month, Hopeful, Trusting, Confident and Calm.

“I can’t do this!” I cried out to my mother, choking back the tears. She had come across the country to visit the grandkids and give support to me, a struggling mom in a new community with no friends or family nearby.

This season was the beginning of my journey raising my daughter Katie, who was showing the first signs of autism. I also had a newborn daughter who was limiting my sleep and gobbling up any extra energy I might have used to cope with the situation. For me, this was a season of grief, intense learning, and attempts to immerse Katie in structured play, learning activities and conversation for most hours of the day.

I was committed to doing all I could to give Katie the best chance possible for a fulfilling life. This was admirable, but I was afraid of failure and held myself to unrealistic standards. As I tried to be the perfect mother/therapist, I found myself engaging in self-condemnation and guilt for not having the “right” personality or temperament when Katie needed them. For example, I bashed myself for not being playful enough when she was a pre-schooler, and not being tough enough when she was an adolescent. Of course, there were many things I did well on behalf of my child, but I overlooked them in the quest to stamp out my weaknesses.

What I needed–and perhaps what you need– is to remember that God blesses people in spite of human weakness and insecurity, and that He provides help in areas where we need it. You may be battling with a child who is depressed, anxious, or exhibiting behavior that you cannot control. It is easy to feel inadequate in these situations. It helps me to look to Biblical examples to see God’s provisions for people who felt the same. For example, Moses and Gideon both felt completely inadequate for the jobs God designed for them (see Exodus 4 and Judges 6), but God did not excuse them from their calling—instead He sent technical and moral support (Aaron and Purah) to help. At other times, God actually decreased tangible supports (as He did in decreasing the size of Gideon’s army), but worked out His purposes in miraculous ways, showing divine strength in spite of unfavorable conditions.

Over time, I learned from these Bible characters to hand over my weaknesses to God and to ask Him for the strength and wisdom to raise my children. He has answered this request, but He also taught me to drop my guilt and to accept my imperfections (not my sins, mind you, but my personal limitations). In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes about something similar. He tells us that God would not take away the “thorn” that plagued him, but instead told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Not only does God fill in the gaps of our insufficiency but His light shines more brightly because of our weaknesses. It’s ok—God has got this!

God also reminded me in Ephesians 2:10 that He created me—and you—“to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He is not surprised at our weaknesses and how they are highlighted in certain situations as we raise our children. Just because the task we face is difficult does not mean that God did not ordain it for us. In fact, God has made a habit of asking his people to do things that seem impossible because it is then that his power is most evident.

Persevering ParentI remember myself as a brand new mom of my first baby (Katie), and how the weight of responsibility hit me for the first time as I held her in my arms. I recall praying fervently, “God, please make me a godly mother”. Over the years, I did grow as a godly parent, and facing challenges as a special-needs parent was a primary means through which God honed my ability to parent in a godly way. The more desperate I became as a special-needs parent, the more He taught me about what is important in His eyes. He reminded me that He expects me and my children to “love mercy, act justly and to walk humbly” with Him (Micah 6:8). Never has He suggested that a college education or earthly success are His priorities for my children, so I do not need to beat myself up if my kids do not live up to these standards. Instead, He taught me that He values gentleness, kindness, peace and love as these are characteristics of Jesus that we are to represent to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). If not for the lessons learned as a special-needs parent, who knows how long it would have taken me to integrate these lessons into my personality and priorities?

As you face difficult situations in parenting your child with social, emotional or behavioral challenges or disabilities, remember that none of this is a surprise to God and that He has a plan and purpose for you and your child as you struggle. Your limited ability to help your child is not a stumbling block to the purposes He holds for him or her. I love how (in Judges 6:12) the angel of the Lord shouted out the potential He saw in Gideon although Gideon was weak in the eyes of the world. The angel called him “mighty warrior” to Gideon’s great surprise. God realizes the potential in us that we cannot always see. So do the best you can, but know that God can more than overcome any limitation you have as a parent. Your weaknesses can actually be wonderful tools in God’s hands when you face the challenges He gives you.


Karen CrumDr. Karen Crum  is the author of Persevering Parent: Finding Strength to Raise Your Child with Social, Emotional or Behavior Challenges. This book points to God’s truths and to practical and spiritual principles that enhance hope, joy and effective special-needs parenting. Persevering Parent can be purchased online by following this link. In honor of Mothers Day, the book is 50% off the regular price during the months of April and May (use discount code 885VMZAG).

Persevering Parent Ministries is a non-profit organization and a portion of proceeds from direct website orders are donated to provide respite care for struggling families. The book is also available from Amazon and other online distributors.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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3 Responses to “I Can’t Do This!”: Facing Your Limitations as a Special-Needs Parent

  1. NickyB. says:

    Without God’s help I wouldn’t have made it this far.


  2. Thank you so much for this! Words I desperately needed to hear.


  3. ginabad says:

    This was such an important lesson for me to learn too! Once I did, life got immeasurably better – and far less exhausting. I also think it’s important to note we have seasons, too. Some seasons you can do very little – maybe you’re also dealing with your own health, a marital crisis, a work situation, or even multiple issues. It’s important to lean heavily on God at this times and to pray for healing. However, you may feel recharged, healed, or get extra help and then you can -carefully and with God’s leading – to a little more than in your down times. It takes a long time to sort out that balance!


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