Parenting with a disability
Raising children is challenging under any circumstances, but there are even greater obstacles for parents with a physical or mental disability, or a learning difficulty. Support networks can make all the difference.
Depending on the nature of your disability, everyday tasks might be more difficult or challenging for you. If you have a physical disability, you might have trouble picking up or carrying your child or doing things like shopping, housework, cleaning and cooking. If you get very tired easily, you may find it difficult to keep up with active young children.
As a parent with a disability, you might also experience prejudices and discrimination that can make it hard to find work. Unemployment or low pay can put even more pressure on your family.
It’s also common to worry about being a burden on friends or families, and to fear being judged as a poor or unfit parent. This might make it hard to ask for help or to get community support.
Helping children to understand disability
Children are naturally curious and may have a lot of questions about your disability. Openly discussing your disability with your child can help them understand any limitations you may have, such as not being able to move around like other people, or where they may accidentally cause physical pain.
As children grow up, they may become involved in supporting and caring for a parent with a disability. Helping with chores around the house or being actively involved with caring for a parent can help children to develop an understanding of responsibilities. It can also lead to higher self-esteem, as they feel a sense of worth from their role. Discussing your disability with children can also help to teach them to become caring, empathetic and insightful.
The importance of help and support
Parents with a disability can find it hard to use formal support services, but it is crucial that your family receives adequate help. It can be difficult to acknowledge when you need help, but knowing your limitations and planning in advance what support will be needed can help make things easier for you and your children.
Support from a partner, family members and friends, as well as a wider network of community groups, disability and social services, can make all the difference. Counselling can help parents with a disability, or other family members and children, receive emotional support.
For more information on the support services available for parents with disabilities:
- Healthy Start, an initiative for families of parents with learning difficulties
- Disability Services Australia or call 1300 372 121
- Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI)
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436
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Last reviewed: March 2021