As a special needs parent, your self- care regimen is important. Caring for a child with special needs can be stressful. In fact, the word stressful may be an understatement. We all can attest that there are great days where our kids achieve something that we thought would not happen as soon as it did. Your fellow special needs parents can understand the joy of a child eating a new food or acquiring a new skill or even speaking after countless doctors have told you that your child is nonverbal and will remain that way.
There is another thing I think we all can agree with when it comes to being parents of children with special needs and that is the fact that we often neglect to take care of ourselves. As a busy mother of four children – one having an autism diagnosis – I am guilty if not taking care of myself like I should. The following are a few ways that we can practice self-care.
Take 5-10 minutes for yourself
Depending on your situation, this suggestion may seem virtually impossible. But you can do it. You can spend this time mindlessly doodling. Or you can use this time to just taking deep, cleansing breaths. Deep breathing allows your body to relax and release any stress while giving you a boost of energy. The life of a special needs parent can be very hectic and stressful. Taking mental breaks can be just the thing you need to get you through your day.
Every day is not going to be a good day
We would all like to think that we can hold it together all day every day. We hold the belief so tightly that we often think we have failed if we have a bad day. Every day is not going to be a good day. A bad day does not make you a bad parent. A bad day does not mean that you are not cut out to be a special needs parent or caregiver. A bad day does not make you a failure. Try your best to keep things in perspective. Some days are just going to be hard but, as cliché’ as it sounds, tomorrow is a new day.
Allow yourself to feel
Life can be challenging as a special needs parent. There is the constant worry that all of your child’s needs are not being met. There is the isolation that your family may experience due to your child not being able to be around large crowds or loud places. You may feel hesitant to honestly express yourself due to not wanting to sound like you are complaining. But it is imperative that you allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling in the moment. Whether you journal or whether you have a good friend you can share your feelings with, allow yourself to feel. Allowing yourself to feel is a form of self-care because this can release some of your anxieties.
Be kind to yourself
Sometimes we can be our own enemy. We can often become hindered by own negative self-talk and negative thoughts. Do whatever you can to remain positive. Remind yourself of the great job that you are doing. Find something to do that is just for you. Read a good book even if you can only read a couple of pages a day. Find a show that you like on TV and watch it even if it takes forever to get through the whole series. The point is to not lose yourself and to stay connected to what you enjoy. So write if you like to write, read if you like to read, do whatever it is that you like to do even if you can only do it every now and then. Doing what you like to do it a form of self-care.
Take care of your mental health
Special needs parents experience a wide range of issues. There is guilt, anxiety, stress, depression, the list goes on and on. It is imperative that you take care of your mental health. Surround yourself with people who encourage and uplift you. This can be achieved through support groups or through connecting with people who have a similar circumstance to yours. Be aware of your mental health and do not hesitate to see a therapist if you feel that that is what you need. In other words, your self-care journey includes taking care of your mental health needs the same way that you take care of the needs of those that you care for and love.
It is not easy being the parent or caregiver of a special needs child. You always wonder if you are doing enough and you can sometimes be your own toughest critic. I am here to tell you that you are doing a great job. You get up every day and do it have to be done for your family. Keep doing what you are doing and remember to take care of yourself.
What other self-care ideas would you add to this list?