Self-care for the special needs parent

5-27-2021 Occupational Therapy Family Services, LLC

As I contemplate school coming to an end and summer fastly approaching, I ask myself wouldn’t now be a great time to take a much-needed break.  I mean a break for me and a break for all of us parents.  Why is giving yourself a break so hard for many parents?

As parents, we are responsible for a lot.  We are responsible for scheduling activities, planning and making meals, laundry, house-keeping tasks, play-dates, holidays, medical appointments, exercise, socialization and the list goes on and on and on.  In fact, it seems like the list of responsibilities never ends.  

All parents have the responsibility for caring for a little human life however, parents of children with special needs know and understand that these children require a little extra care.  They know that raising a special needs child can be challenging and oftentimes exhausting.  It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the organization and planning that is required for daily life.  It can appear that between doctor appointments and therapies there is not much time left for anything else.

It is important to remember that self-care for yourself is actually just as important as caring for your child.  As parents, we want to give all of ourselves to our children.  We often wear many hats all the time.  We want to be everything for our children.  We want to comfort them.  We want to meet all their needs all the time.  We can do this and we DO Do this.  However, it can be physically, emotional and mentally exhausting.  For these reasons finding time for yourself for self-care is even more important.

Please understand that no one solution will work for every family but maybe one of these suggestions might work for your family.

  • Find a support system. This can be family, friends, neighbors, other special needs parents, or support groups
  • Ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength.  Reach out to your pediatrician, teacher, minister, clergy, spouse, friends, family, neighbors, and parents of your child’s friends.
  • Give yourself permission to take a 5-10 minute break each day.  This could be having a cup of coffee in the morning, reading a book in the evening, or taking a long shower or a bath.
  • Exercise.  Join a gym that has daycare, find an exercise buddy, and include the kids.
  • Swap childcare.  Get a group together and swap childcare so each of you can run errands or have an afternoon off.  The kids will love socialization as well.
  • Work out a break with your co-parent. Take turns giving each other an afternoon off or an early evening.
  • Summer camps.  For longer breaks during the summer research summer camps that are specifically designed for special needs children. Knowing that counselors understand the special needs of your child can make being apart from your child a little easier.  Look into day programs and overnights.
  • Babysitter.  Locate a babysitter through an agency that has specially trained employees that can meet the needs of your child.
  • Research a play center or group therapies that have designated times for special needs children who have sensory, socialization or communication issues.  Occupational therapy family services, LLC has weekly social skills groups.
  • Research support services meant for families like yours.  Check out agencies in your county and state that have services for your special needs child.  These could include therapies, respite, activities, and everyday support.

Hopefully, one of the above options will work for your family.  Remember a little break can go a long way.

2OTMoms

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