stress-management

Stress Management for Parents of Special Needs Children

Stress management is an important skill for any parent, but it is especially important for parents of children with any types of disabilities. Parenting is marked by numerous responsibilities and pressures. Add to it the additional cares and concerns that come with having a child with special needs and the task can feel overwhelming indeed. As the parent of a child with disabilities, you will have typical parental stress along with the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child.

We want to encourage you and share with you thoughts of parents who have special needs children. Also some useful tips and advice for you you can find below. 

Heather McCain (mama of 5, special needs mom/advocate)

I think most parents probably feel burnt out at some point while juggling all of the responsibilities that parenthood brings. It seems there is always a never-ending list of things to do, but never quite enough time to get it all done. Parents of special needs children have lists that are a bit longer, but still have only 24 hours in a day.

Our lists include medication administration, regular appointments, multiple forms of therapy, paperwork, unending phone calls, IEP meetings, learning to use and then using medical equipment, and so on. We often need to feed, change, or bathe our children who are well beyond their pre-school years. We need to make sure we don’t run out of the medications that our child’s life depends on, or diapers in a size that can’t be bought in a store and must be purchased from medical supply companies. When we plan outings, we must make sure our destination will be accessible for our child. If you can imagine, I’ve only just put a dent in all the extra things a special needs parent must do, remember, or know.

Before anyone gets the idea that I’m complaining, I want to make sure to be clear that that isn’t what this is about. This is something that I personally experience, and that I hear or see other special needs parents talk about often.

It’s when you’re so burnt out that you can’t even bring yourself to open a piece of mail or check your voicemail because you can’t fathom adding one more thing to your list, not even a seemingly tiny task like returning a phone call.

It’s the kind of exhaustion you feel as you wake up to change a diaper and bed sheet in the middle of the night, like you have for the past 9 years. Or 20. Or 42.

It’s letting go of careers and plans.

It’s feeling like you have little control over what happens to your child, when you desperately want to protect them.

It’s handling meltdowns like a pro in public and hiding in the bathroom to cry later.

It’s the heavy guilt of being away from your other children as you sit in the hospital with one, weighing on you like a boulder.

It’s being afraid of the future but learning to live in the moment…

The burnout is real. I’m not telling you about it for pity, I’m simply sharing the reality of many with you. And it has nothing to do with how much we love our children. Trust me, we love them so much that we put their every need above our own. 

The next time you see a parent of a special needs child, instead of saying, “I don’t know how you do it” (trust me, we’re not even quite sure how we do it), or “I couldn’t do what you do” (trust me again, you could if it were your child), consider smiling and telling us we are doing a good job. Sometimes, that’s all we really need to hear to keep on keeping on. Read the full article here.

Kate Swenson (mother of 2 boys, one with non verbal, severe autism)

There are days where I feel less like a mother and more like a personal care attendant.

I let myself go down the rabbit hole of feelings that accompany raising a child with severe autism.

The self-pity. The ‘why me’s’. The ‘this isn’t fairs.’ The ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life.’

Let’s be clear here…I love my son more than I can put into words. He is my life. He is my purpose. He is my joy.

But, his care is sometimes more stressful than I know how to handle. We are entering a new world. He is getting older. He is getting bigger. And I am still the same size.

Caring for an upset and inconsolable infant is one thing. Caring for an upset 60 pound 6 year old amidst an autism meltdown is different.

I am not scared of Coop yet. But I can see a glimpse into the future. Little boys turn into teens that turn into men.

I have heard of caregiver burnout and if you search the term you will see a theme. The term refers typically to caregivers that care for adults.

Caring for my son with severe special needs is a 24 hour a day job. Read the full article here.

Tips and Advice for Parents and caregivers

These tips can help you learn to manage your stress and live a happier, more satisfying life. By developing your stress management skills, you will also model important life skills for your children.

Positive Thinking

Learn positive thinking. Inventory your stress. Re-frame negativity by:

  • Imagining the worst, best, and likely outcomes of problems and visualizing how you will deal with the likely outcome.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people and limiting negative situations.

Limit Stress by Admitting Your Limits

An odd thing about stressful situations is that the more we stress over them, the worse our stress becomes. We instinctively worry about situations we cannot control, but it is important to learn to accept our limitations.

Plan and Schedule

Planning is a great way to reduce stress. Planning can be as simple as taking a few minutes in the morning to write down and prioritize the important tasks you must do in a day. You and your child can benefit from developing good planning habits. 

Taking Care of Your Physical Needs Reduces Stress

Often parents stay on the go and leave little time to take care of their own physical needs. Follow a healthy nutrition plan, learn ways to get a healthy sleep despite ​the stress and make time for an exercise program.

Make Time for Laughter

Making time for humor is important at home and at work. Harmless humor is great for lightening the mood and building camaraderie at work. Positive humor at home can actually strengthen your relationships with your spouse and children. Humor can also help diffuse stress in difficult situations

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