If you are a parent of a special needs child, you will face all the same stressors of any other parent, plus some more on top of that. It can really take its toll on you, so it’s very important that you learn how to reduce this stress and take care of yourself. You can’t be a very effective parent if you don’t take care of yourself first.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your kids and their needs, that you forget to take care of yourself, and that’s when the stress really kicks in. You might forget to eat, you might struggle with your sleep, and you might find yourself on the go so much, you can’t remember what you’re doing. Which is why I have committed to getting back to myself this year!
I realized that I was constantly stressed out, so this year I am “reclaiming my time” in the words of Maxine Waters and getting myself together so I can be a better parent! Its hard to separate from things going on with family but it’s something I MUST do because sometimes I truly feel as if I am driving myself crazy!
Some things that pile on the stress for special needs parents are:
- Lack of support or help
- Quick changes in family or life structure
- Conflicting or uncertain expectations or duties
- Heavy workload, few rest breaks, and long hours
- Financial Strain
There will be stresses over health concerns, therapies, play dates, and more. You have to carry so much more on your shoulders, that stress can easily overcome you. Here are some things you can do about it:
- Take some “me time” every day. You might feel like you don’t have the time, or that you’re being selfish by doing something for yourself, but it’s important. Whether it’s a hot bath, some quiet time with a good book, or a phone chat with a good friend to vent, you need to take some time to yourself to help you unwind.
- Join a support group. It can be in person, or online, or both, but joining a support group is very helpful. Communicating with other special needs parents will help you understand that you are not alone. Other parents are going through the same things and similar things as what you deal with every day.
- Keep a journal. Even if you’ve never been into journaling other parts of your life, it can be very helpful for special needs parenting. On those days when you’re feeling too vulnerable to talk about it, and those times when you are so stressed you just need to vent and get it all out, a journal can be a great way to process those thoughts. You can make sense of what you’re feeling before you react to things.
- Exercise. How often are you taking time to get out and move? Are you getting exercise, apart from shuttling kids here or there, or running after them around the house? Even just 20 minutes a day can make a big difference in your stress levels.
- Don’t skip meals. You may not always be able to eat as healthy as you want, and sometimes you might take your lunch on the go, but whatever you do, don’t skip meals. It will affect your moods, lead to weight gain, and other issues.
These tips will help you reduce some of the stress of being a special needs parent. Remember that it’s important to reach out to someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Taking care of a special needs child is a big task and you don’t have to face it alone every day.