As the parent of a child with special needs, I soon discovered that my child was not the only one with the special needs. Looking after my own well-being has required time and careful planning to ensure my strength and stamina would endure through times of turbulence.
If you, too, are the parent of a special needs child, taking time for “you” is essential. There are myriad stress coping strategies that all help, but the most important of all is keeping yourself refreshed mentally, physically and spiritually. This will not happen magically, but is well worth the planning and effort.
One thing you can do is plan for yourself a timeslot each day, when you can practice a few minutes of quiet mindfulness meditation, or maybe take some time just planning out your day and your week so that you can be better organized and not feel overwhelmed or frenzied by all that is on your plate. The mindset you take into each day will transfer to your children, your spouse, your friends, and all your other relationships.
Another thing you can do to prevent burn-out is to find out if you qualify for respite care (a type of special needs service that provides for an occasional caregiver for your child), so that you can have a break to refresh. Should you not qualify for formal respite care, take the time to arrange with a friend or a relative, or hire a sitter who can step in for a few hours a week to allow you to either get the grocery shopping done without children in tow, have a coffee with a friend, or even go for a nice hike in the fresh air. Whatever you choose, do it frequently and do it before you get worn out and depleted.
One of the other ways you can help yourself is by keeping the relationship between home and school a positive one. You may have heard the adage, “You attract bees with honey, not vinegar.” This can’t ring more true when it comes to dealing with teachers, special ed staff, Principals, and other school officials. When they see your willingness to be involved in a problem-solving (rather than demanding or finger-pointing) manner, they will generally be more prone to rally behind your efforts, which in turn, will reduce your stress load.
You are a Special Needs Parent. Take the time today to focus on what your special needs are.