Self-Care for parents of special needs kids
Updated: Jan 11, 2019
Self care is so cliche now days that I almost hate to use it in the title. But as the parent of a kiddo with special needs, self care is VITAL to our success as parents, but also the success of our marriages, relationships, and the other children in the family.
If you read my last post, you will know that I crashed and burned pretty hard this past year with the new PANDAS diagnosis, and attempting to be super human and also homeschool our oldest. All focus on health and wellness went to my oldest and I sacrificed myself in order to facilitate her healing. A certain amount of that was necessary, but certainly there were things I could have done differently that would have led to a better outcome for myself.
A few of the big hinderances you may face when you have a child who has special needs of any variety include: not enough funds as all of the funds are going to said child, and not enough time. When your kid is going through a health crisis, all of the emotional energy and resources tend to go towards them because their need is the most pressing. I didn't feel that I could justify using funds for things to keep me sane at the time (if you haven't caught it by now... I do not recommend this!).
I noticed that I was starting to feel overwhelmed more often, snappy, I wasn't sleeping well and every little thing was bothering me. Not a great place to be!
Hindsight is 20/20, so here is what I would recommend for self care when you also have a special needs child.
1. Assess the finances. Are there ANY funds set aside for your child's needs that can be allocated to you? Even $25 for a babysitter once a month can be a complete game changer so you can go drink coffee somewhere and stare at a wall.
2. Confide in your friends. Now, I have learned that not everyone CAN nor wants to handle the poop storm you are currently experiencing. That's okay. But there are people who can. Confide in those people. ASK THEM FOR HELP. Can you watch my youngest so I can take my oldest to her appt alone? Can we kid swap so that we both get kid free time?
3. Look into your local resources. Special needs parents groups are often free and can provide tremendous support for families.
4. Get your spouse on the same page. Often, the spouse that is working doesn't truly understand what it is like to have your life completely engulfed by a child who has significant needs. Its almost impossible to understand until you have lived it. And even if they are living it, they may be living it and feeling it differently than you. Talk to them. Enlist their help. My husband is awesome about helping. When he gets home, it is all hands on deck and it always has been. For that I am super grateful, but that doesn't mean that he always gets it when I share about the dark days. If your spouse is NOT on the same page, then I highly recommend getting marriage support to help work out the kinks. It is IMPERATIVE for the thrive-al (I made that word up... I'm not a huge fan of just surviving, but thriving!) of your marriage.
5. Ask family for help. It can be very hard for people to understand the difficulties of your home life when they don't live it or see it. It is important if at all possible to get family on the same page so they can take the kids for you, come be with you on days that are BAD, and just in general be a support for you.
7. Make time to have fun! This is imperative. Go see a movie with friends and laugh. Laughter is good medicine! When I'm having a hard time and it just feels like too much, comedy is my go to.
8. I use essential oils a lot to help me in the immediate moments. Essential oils are potent and powerful, they cross the blood brain barrier and can access our limbic system (emotion center) within seconds.
9. Prayer and Aroma Freedom Technique. Aroma Freedom technique is a process using essential oils that allows us to identify obstacles, process through them and develop new more positive mindsets. I am an aroma freedom practitioner, so I often will take myself through the process to help me have a better mindset as well as release the stress of the day. My faith and relationship with God is central to everything else about me, so I incorporate prayer into the aroma freedom technique to help me process as well.
For me, my self care meant putting our oldest in public school. We are only one week in and I've already seen such improvements in our relationship and how I feel about life that it has been absolutely necessary. It has meant asking for help, being okay with letting other people care for my child differently than me.
Are you the parent of a special needs kid? If so, what do you do for self care? I'd love to hear in the comments!
To your wellness,