Family-tested solutions
for Special Needs

Toddler and mother playing together

Family-tested solutions
for Special Needs

Toddler and mother playing together

Imperfectly Okay Parenting, Part 1: Wholeheartedness

Mother and child standing hand and hand on a mountain topI just finished reading Brene Brown’s most recent bestseller The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are It’s a book about what to do if you’re one of those people who struggle with feeling “not good enough.” I figure that includes almost everyone who isn’t deluded or lying.   I have noticed it includes many parents who get up each morning to care for children with special needs.

Shame Resilience and Parenting Success

Brown’s area of research is the “shame resilience” that can flow within people who practice loving themselves.  (With an emphasis on practice.  Few of us live on Planet Self-Awareness all the time.) She calls this becoming wholehearted because it allows people to feel worthy of giving and receiving love.  Brown points out that we can’t give our children a sense self-worth if we’re drowning in our own feelings of inadequacy. The ability to love yourself with a whole heart, she observes, “is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books.”

Practical Solutions from Shifts in Perspective

In the immortal words of the Three Stooges: I resemble that remark.  I write how-to books. Family Road Map and Young Adult Road Map are two guidebooks filled with rubber-meets-the-road advice about how to get better services for children with special needs. Our Road Map training programs have helped more than a thousand family caregivers across the country in the past four years.  Even so, when I replay scenes from the movie of my own life,  I can recognize that small but powerful shifts in my perspective were often more important than practical solutions.  I thought I was just trying to cope.  In fact, I was managing to grow.  That, in turn, gave me greater access to practical solutions.

Part 2 of this five-part blog: “Inclusive Classroom Drop-Out” continues the story of how the most frightening days of my son’s illness led through the valley of Special Needs Parenting Guilt to a healthier, more joyful life. 

Wendy Besmann

Wendy Besmann is the Executive Director of Get There Project. Her books include Family Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Navigating Health, Education, and Insurance Systems for Families with Special Needs, Young Adult Road Map: A Step-By-Step Guide to Wellness, Independent Living, and Transition Services for People in Their Teens and Twenties, and Team Up for Your Child, A Step-By-Step Guide to Working Smarter with Doctors, Schools, Insurers, and Agencies. She and her husband Ted have two sons, Elliot and David, who live with special needs. Wendy and Ted split their time between Knoxville, Tennessee and the University of South Carolina campus, where Ted is an engineering professor and Wendy is a "vintage" grad student in Public Health.


  1. […] (Return to Part 1:  “Wholeheartedness”) […]

  2. […] a previous blog (“Imperfectly OK Parenting”), I wrote about my own experience with caregiver burnout.  Question: Do you know a special needs […]

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