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Parenting with a Spinal Cord Injury Presents Challenges and Opportunities

Here is a list of positive things that can come from the experience.

By Jill Koval, Ph.D.
Director, Psychological Services, Shepherd Center Inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program

Having a spinal cord injury affects everyone in the family. People who are newly injured often fear being unable to be a good parent.

Though being a parent with a spinal cord injury is challenging, there are some positive things that can result for you and your child. They include the following:

  • You can be a wonderful role model, showing your children that life doesn’t end when there is an unexpected, unwelcome and catastrophic injury or illness. Many children describe their injured parent as their “hero.”
  • You can teach your children, their friends and their friend’s families about disability and being an advocate for people with disabilities.
  • You can show your children that as a member of the family, everyone, even younger children, can do something that is helpful as the family adjusts to their new normal. Children love to help and feel a sense of importance when they know they are helping.
  • You can provide important guidance about safety and educate your children about the importance of seatbelts, diving feet first and not driving under the influence.
  • You can demonstrate that while a person may function differently, you are still the same person and can be a great, caring and loving parent.
  • You will feel much better about yourself by maintaining your emotional connection to your children.

For more information on parenting with a spinal cord injury, visit these web pages:

Shepherd Center Helps Parents with a New Disability Find Effective Ways to Care for Their Children

Shepherd Center Staff Members and Former Patients Share some Do's and Don'ts of Parenting with a Disability

JILL KOVAL, Ph.D., is the director of psychological services in the Spinal Cord Injury Inpatient Program at Shepherd Center in Atlanta. She has worked at Shepherd Center since 1989. Dr. Koval has a doctorate in psyhcology from George Washington University. You may reach her at

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.