Coping Strategies for Children with Special Needs

A Contrast of the Coping Strategies used by Middle Eastern Parents of Children with Special Needs and Middle Eastern Parents of Children without Special Needs Living in Washington DC

Introduction

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Middle Eastern parents in the United States face multi-dimensional issues with regard to the family and child rearing. With the family, the challenges of cultural assimilation and integration as well as adjustment to the new community and culture are issues faced by parents (Nahari, Lopez & Esquivel, 2007) as the head of the family. Within themselves, they seek to adopt American-parenting styles while at the same time seeking to reconcile these with the family and parenting values ingrained in their Middle Eastern cultural identity. A common area requiring reconciliation is the individualist direction of the American family with the extended family practice of Middle Eastern communities. This determines the extent of authority enforced by parents and decision-making on issues involving the family and its individual members. With their children, Middle Eastern parents face issues relating to education, health care, employment, and other social issues, linked to the social environment in the United States, affecting their children.

Apart from these issues, Middle Eastern parents could also face the challenge of caring for children with special needs. These special needs refer to any disability or chronic condition of children that requires special attention, care and intervention by parents (Harry, 2002). With a large and extended family, the provision of special intervention depends on a number of factors. These could include the perception of parents towards the special needs of a child, awareness and knowledge of interventions for children with special needs, accessibility of care and social welfare facilities and support for children with special needs, the economic capabilities of the family, and cultural practices in caring for children with special needs. There could be varying parental response towards different forms of special needs. However, these responses would always have economic and socio-cultural elements since economic status and cultural values determine the perceptions, attitudes and behavior of parents towards children with special needs.

Caring for children with special needs comprise an additional challenge for Middle Eastern parents. The situation could isolate parents (Nahari et al., 2007) from other parents when there are no other families in the community caring for children with special needs. This is especially so when parents have no knowledge about the condition of a child and the special needs that such child requires. This could also exact greater pressure on the family’s economic resources, given the large and extended Middle Eastern families. Cultural influences could also cause parents to misunderstand children with special needs. Middle Eastern parents need to cope with these issues so they can provide the special needs of their child.

While there are similarities in the coping mechanism of Middle Eastern parents because of similar socio-economic and cultural contexts, there are likely to be differences in the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents of children with special needs. Coping mechanisms are the skills or strategies as response to stressors, such as the additional challenge of caring for children with special needs. Coping mechanisms could be action oriented by addressing the problem, emotion-based that address heightened emotions that could directly or indirectly the problem, or destructive coping mechanisms that does not only resolve stress but could also worsen it. (Dale, 1996) The coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents in response to the stressful situation of caring for children with disabilities are different from the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents of children without special needs. The common economic and socio-cultural context of Middle Eastern parents account for the similarities in coping mechanisms while caring for children with special needs account for the differences in the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents. Investigating the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs requires consideration of the socio-cultural context.

Studies on coping mechanisms of parents of children with or without special needs often do not consider the socio-cultural context by either neglecting to consider minority groups or ignoring the impact of socio-cultural differences on the coping mechanism of parents (Harry, 2002). The study contrasts the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs by considering socio-cultural context as influence on differences in coping mechanisms to parenting stress. The locale of the study is in Washington, DC that has a significant population of Middle Eastern families.

Purpose of the Study

The study sets to distinguish the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents of children with and without special needs. The study would determine the differences in the response of Middle Eastern parents towards parenting stress when there is no child with special needs or when having a child with special needs compounds parenting stress. The differences inform on how well the situation of having a child with special needs contribute to parenting stress and the differences in coping mechanisms. The study conducts the investigation in the context of the factors affecting the coping mechanism of parents by considering Middle Eastern culture as the socio-cultural context. Contextual study of differences in coping mechanisms of parents of children with or without special needs provides a more comprehensive understanding of the stress experienced by parents with different socio-cultural backgrounds and the corresponding coping mechanisms. This would then identify what are the causes of stress, how stress develops, and what are the better-suited coping mechanisms for Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs.

Statement of the Problem

            Parenting stress afflicts all parents regardless of socio-cultural background but caring for a child with special needs compounds parenting stress and cultural beliefs, norms, practices and values influence the coping mechanisms of parents. Differences in contextual situation also cause variances in coping mechanisms given similar situations. As such, the nature and level of parenting stress and the corresponding coping mechanism of parents likely differ given differences in socio-cultural differences as well as parenting of children with or without special needs. An investigation of the differences in the coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents with or without children with special needs determines how having children with or without special needs influence parenting stress as well as how well the Middle Eastern culture affects coping mechanisms.

Significance of the Study

The study contributes to the knowledge gap on coping mechanisms of parents of children with or without children with special needs within the Middle Eastern cultural context. The existing studies on coping mechanisms of parents focus on the white middle class as the standard in understanding parenting stress and coping mechanisms without considering the multi-cultural and varying social situations of American families. The differences in coping mechanisms of Middle Eastern parents with or without children with special needs consider a causal context for parenting stress and a cultural context for coping mechanisms. Cultural minority groups comprise significant groups in the United States. There is need to develop a cultural context based perspective towards parenting stress and coping mechanisms. The differences in coping mechanisms by parents with different cultural backgrounds could contribute to improving support mechanisms or processes for parents in handling parenting stress caused by caring for children with or without disability in order to enhance the ability of parents belonging to minority cultures in their coping mechanisms.

Theoretical Framework

While generalizations on parenting stress and coping mechanisms are viable, the phenomenological theory of Carl Rogers provide for a family-centered approach to the phenomenon. The core idea of this theory is the existence of differences in family conditions brought about by varying internal and external factors (Bamm & Rosenbaum, 2008). This means that understanding parenting stress and coping mechanisms have to be on a family-per-family basis. Contextual understanding of the situation of families is important and achieving this level of understanding is through the accounts of families (Eysenck, 1994). Since Middle Eastern parents are the family members involved in the investigation, the accounts of Middle Eastern parents over parenting stress from caring for children with or without special needs and the corresponding coping mechanisms adhere to the family-centered approach. Phenomenological theory also provides a conceptual framework of the parenting stress and coping mechanisms as well as the causal and influencing factors.

Parents take the role of accommodating and fostering the developmental needs of all members of the family. In performing this role, parents experience stress depending on their self-concept or their perspective towards their ability to accomplish their role relative to the expectations of the community (Eysenck, 1994). The extent of disparity between the perceived capability of parents and social expectations determines the level of parenting stress (Bamm & Rosenbaum, 2008). Internal and external factors facilitate the disparity between perspectives of actual capability and external expectations. Parenting stress emerges from the individual characteristics of parents, particularly their confidence and self-esteem (Eysenck, 1994) as enhanced by their knowledge and experience towards various areas of parenting such as caring for children with or without special needs. Parents experience stress from their immediate physical and socio-cultural environment and their remote environment such as political and economic conditions. Conflicts and changes in the external factors, such as immigration and exposure to a different culture, cause as well as influence parenting stress (McCreary et al., 2006).

Parenting stress develops depending on the extent of challenge faced by parents. There are differences in the challenges that emerge in caring for children with or without special needs. Children with special needs require unique care relative to children without special needs (Dale, 1996; Nahari et al., 2007). These situations contribute to parenting stress depending on the knowledge and experience of parents in caring for children with or without special needs, the perception of parents towards their ability to accommodate the development needs of children with or without special needs, and the perception over their ability and the expectations of society. External factors affect parenting stress since economic and political conditions affect the capability of parents to address the developmental needs of their children. Socio-cultural beliefs and practices as well as emerging conflicts also cause parenting stress. This is so for immigrant parents or parents belonging to cultural minorities, such as Middle Eastern parents in the United States, caring for children with or without special needs.

Parents develop coping mechanisms in response to stress (McCreary et al., 2006). Internal and external factors also facilitate coping mechanisms. Individual characteristics and perspectives determine the response to stress. Parents could build their knowledge of certain parenting situations such as caring for children with special needs, deny or ignore the situation, succumb to alcoholism and other vices, and other mechanisms with positive or negative impact on the situation. Economic and political factors influence coping mechanisms by determining the available response of parents to certain situations. Socio-cultural factors determine parenting styles and strategies in caring for children with or without special needs.

Research Questions

The study addresses the following questions to meet the purpose of the investigation:

1. Are there differences in the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents in caring for children with or without special needs?

2. How do Middle Eastern parents cope with parenting stress in caring for children with or without special needs?

3. What are the differences in the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents in caring for children with or without special needs?

4. How does cultural context distinguish the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs?

5. How does parenting children with or without special needs distinguish coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs?

Hypotheses of the Study

The following are the hypotheses relative to the research questions:

1. There may be differences in the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents in caring for children with or without special needs because of differences in family and parenting circumstances.

2. Middle Eastern parents may cope with parenting stress by combining and/or reconciling parenting practices for different circumstances based on Middle Eastern and American beliefs, norms and values.

3. The differences in the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents in caring for children with or without special needs may emanate from having children with or without special needs, individual beliefs and perspectives, and cultural impact.

4. Cultural context may distinguish the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents of children with or without special needs by influencing perceptions, expectations, and responses.

5. Parenting children with or without special needs may distinguish the coping strategies of Middle Eastern parents by influencing different parenting challenges and parenting stress.

Definition of Terms

Children with special needs refer to the children with any disability or chronic condition, which require special attention, care or intervention from parents (Harry, 2002). Disability or chronic condition could be physical, psychological or both. The attention, care or intervention could require medication, special treatment, rehabilitation or counseling.

Parenting stress is the combination of physical and emotional strain brought about by the challenges and pressures of parental responsibility or roles (Bornstein, 2002). The physical manifestations could range from weight loss or gain, tiredness, weakness, to the development of illness. Emotional strain could manifest in depression, alcoholism and other vices, and other similar outcomes.

Coping mechanisms or strategies refer to the range of attitude, behavior and skills used by parents to respond to stress (McCreary et al., 2006). These could be deliberate inaction or action. The impact could be positive, negative or both.

Cultural factors and influences comprise the various attitudes, beliefs, norms and values that apply to areas such as parenting (Harry, 2002). These could be the result of cultural adaptation and assimilation in the case of immigrant families or minority cultural groups.

References

Bamm, E., & Rosenbaum, P. (2008). Family-centered theory: Origins, development, barriers, and supports to implementation in rehabilitation medicine. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 89(8), 1618-1624.

Bornstein, M. H. (2002). Handbook of parenting: Practical issues in parenting. Mahwah, NJ:     Lawrence Earlbaum Associates Ltd.

Dale, N. (1996). Working with families of children with special needs. London: Routledge.

Eysenck, M. W. (1994) Individual differences. East Sussex, UK: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates Ltd.

Harry, B. (2002). Trends and issues in serving culturally diverse families of children with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 36(3), 131-138.

McCreary, M. L., Cunningham, J. L., Ingram, K. M., & Fife, J. E. (2006). Stress, culture, and    racial socialization: Making an impact. In P. Wong & Lilian Wong, International and    cultural psychology (pp. 487-513). New York: Springer.

Nahari, S. G., Lopez, E. C., & Esquivel, G. B. (2007). Multicultural handbook of school psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates Ltd.

 

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Coping Strategies for Children with Special Needs. (2016, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/coping-strategies-for-children-with-special-needs/