Your Child Needs You to Care for Yourself, Too
written by Cody McBride
Tips on how to evaluate and care for yourself when you spend the majority of your time, attention, and energy on your special needs child.
It is an honor and a privilege to care for a child with special needs. However, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the idea that their needs are greater than your own. In reality, you must prioritize yourself (at least sometimes) so that you can beat back fatigue and be the best parent possible.
Here are a few tips that can help you find the right track.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know everything about how to support a child with special needs. Remember, everyone has to learn.
Understand Why You’re Stressed
There are many reasons that you might be stressed out, but many of them you can control. A few of these include:
- How well you’re sleeping – not sleeping can cause stress as it leaves your brain and body fatigued.
- Whether or not you have support – we all need a strong support network, which might include family, friends, and caregivers.
- Your relationship status – it’s not uncommon for parents of special needs children to hyperfocus on their kids and lose sight of their relationship.
Remember, different types of stress can cause more caregiver/parental fatigue than others. No matter what brings you down, look for ways to combat negative situations and emotions, and you will put yourself in a stronger position as a parent and caregiver.
Self-Care Made Simple
A good rule of thumb when defining self-care is that you should do anything that makes you feel good or good about yourself. A few examples here include going back to school, starting your own business, and taking a solo vacation.
If you choose to go back to school, you give yourself an opportunity to achieve a goal that you may not have had in your younger days. Fortunately, even though you are busy, you can take classes online to earn your degree – many people choose to earn a bachelor’s, but you can also earn a master’s online – look for an accredited school – which can help you lay a strong foundation for your career or to pursue a start-up.
When you do choose to start your own business, be prepared for extra stress in the startup phase. This is when you’re drafting your roadmap that will put you on the path toward success. Although it might sound counterproductive, take the extra time to form your LLC structure now, which can reduce stress on you later by giving you management flexibility and taking the financial burden off of you if issues arise with your business.
Although pursuing your goals is one great way to take the stress off your everyday life, you should also plan to spend some time away. According to travel guide site Afar, solo vacations give you a chance to learn about yourself while getting out of your comfort zone. This alone can boost your confidence and self-esteem, which might help offset some of the issues that bring you down.
Don’t Overdo It
Taking care of yourself is essential to your ability to parent effectively. However, be careful not to overdo it. Self-indulgence can happen when you get too comfortable focusing on yourself. It can result in you neglecting your other duties. Take care of yourself, but don’t cross the line between self-care and overindulgence.
There’s no real way around all of the stress that goes along with caring for a child with special needs. But you can’t forget about yourself throughout your parenting journey. Remember, a great way to be a better parent is to give yourself things that you need without falling into the trap of overindulging to the point that you’re less effective at home, at work, and as a parent.
Psychological & Educational Consulting can help you develop a plan for your special needs child. We offer executive functioning coaching, social skills and peer groups, and clinical supervision. Contact us today at 973.400.8371.