I’m Tired. The words I say to myself over and over during the course of a day. It is not just physically exhausted, but more, mental fatigue. If you ever tried writing down ALL the things you do in a day, including the list you make of the things you NEED to still get done, you would pat yourself on the back.
As parents, we carry a ton of worry and fear, as parents to special needs kids, we add a little more to that list and it is no joke.
Here are 7 ideas to try to help you recharge / refresh. Some are very simple ! I hope you find a few helpful.
- Turn off the TV and turn on your favorite music
- Pet an animal. If you don’t have one, take a ride to a local zoo . Something about animals just brings a smile to so many faces
- Any form of exercise, including walking. 15 minutes can really make a difference.
- Call a friend. Share a memory that makes you laugh. Or, maybe you busy need to cry. To have someone on the other end that will listen is so helpful.
- Keep a log/list/journal of your appointments / schedule for your child to be able to stay organized and visually see what you have planned.
- Be sure you are taking care of yourself when it comes to your health and daily needs. Eating, staying hydrated and keeping up with your doctor appointments are all very important. You cannot help anyone else if you aren’t taking care of you.
- If you find you are having continuous thoughts of sadness or feeling overwhelmed , seek a counselor to talk to. it is ok to ask for help and to have someone that is a professional to offer you the guidance needed.
Remember, feeling overwhelmed , having a bad day and feeling stressed does NOT mean you are failing as a parent , it means you are tapped into all of the needs falling on you and you are trying to find the tools to make it ok.
3. Find your tribe
When you have a child with special needs, says Eichenstein, “you might no longer feel comfortable in social relationships you used to love. My advice is to find a meaningful group of friends that can support you where you are at now.”
Parents often talk about coming to a place of acceptance with their child’s diagnosis. “With autism, it doesn’t really end when they get out of school. Even though my three children are pretty high-functioning, I don’t know the future. I have tried every therapy and every diet, and none of them were the salvation. I’ve been a Christian all my life and it was a struggle to let go of [the idea of fixing my children], but I have let go,” Dietrichson says. “My job is to help them function in this world, helping my square pegs fit into round holes.”
Some parents turn to therapy to help find acceptance or to help ease depression and anxiety. “We are designed to be verbal communication machines, and talk therapy works,” Eichenstein says.
White says her level of acceptance definitely depends on the day’s mood, but she also sees parenting Mari-Helen as part of her spiritual journey. “I embrace the Buddhist idea of not viewing suffering or difficulties as abnormal. When I think of the fact that Mari-Helen is always going to be the way she is now, it takes my breath away, so I try to live in the present, not focus on the long haul. I know it’s just a matter of she’s mine and I’m hers, and we will figure it out.”
Of course, it’s precisely because parenting children who have special needs is a long journey that Silverman recommends reevaluating self-care tactics once every season. “It’s important for parents to periodically take a self-assessment and ask themselves what they need, what aren’t they getting, what are they currently appreciative of, and who they need to talk to in order to get more answers. As time goes on, our needs and strength change,” she says.
Or, as Stuber says, “When I’m at the end of my rope, it’s time to build more rope.”
I’ve learned to sit down at my writing desk and type away until my frustration or grief has waned. I text friends until I find support. Sometimes I listen to my meditation app (aptly called Headspace). And if all else fails, my legs haven’t failed me yet: I walk or bike my way to a place where I can breathe deeply again. Five years in is long enough to know that taking care of me matters.