Parenting is a big challenge. When you’re the mom of a special needs kid, some days are downright overwhelming. While it may feel contrary to your instincts, your most important strategy for success is to make your own needs your first priority.
The struggle is real. Did you know parental burnout is a real thing? According to Psychology Today, the stress of parenthood, caregiving to your youngster, and your many obligations can lead to neglecting some of your basic needs. As someone caring for a child with a disability, you are also at risk for caregiver burnout. Without sufficiently tending your emotional, social and physical needs, you chance burning out and ultimately being unable to take appropriate care of your child. I offer you this advice for steering clear of burnout:
Participate in self-care. Self-care is a key to staying healthy and avoiding burnout. Make sure you take care of your physical needs. Establish a healthy routine and above all else, stick to it! Get some exercise, eat proper meals, keep up your medical exams, and stay in touch with family and friends. And don’t forget to make time to participate in a hobby you enjoy.
Prioritize. If I find I’m struggling at keeping up my self-care program, I take steps to ease my schedule. Some studies show parents who participate in good self-care engage more fully with their children, so I make it a priority to develop and stick to a plan. Even if it’s something like hiring a trustworthy dog walking service periodically, you’ll see it’s well worth the small investment to relieve some of your burden. With someone else to take Fido out for a bit, I can catch up paperwork, snag a much-needed nap, or do some food prep.
Plan well. Planning and organizing can help you stay on track. Find some organizational tools that work well for you, such as a school syllabus, calendar system or daily planner and use them. You’ll find spelling things out can make it easier to manage your time – it’s easier to see when you have openings and how to establish flow.
Another suggestion is to pull together vital information and plug it into a cheat sheet. I keep it electronically in my phone, a hard copy inside a kitchen cabinet and a copy in my car. My cheat sheet includes family member phone numbers including my and my husband’s workplaces, my child’s physician, the pharmacy phone number, and neighbors’ and babysitters’ phone numbers. I also include all my child’s medication and allergy information. And last, but not least, I have social security and insurance information there, just in case. It comes in handy when filling out forms.
Limit obligations. We can’t do it all, and in protection of our wellness, it’s important not to try. There sometimes will be worthwhile opportunities you need to pass up in order to preserve your self-care plan and meet obligations. As Canadian Women’s Health Network points out, you need to be realistic in setting your goals and commitments. You carry a lot of responsibility and your first priorities are to you and your little one. Don’t feel guilty about it and embrace that you’re doing the right thing.
Make time for your youngster. You and your child will both feel better if you set aside time routinely for positive interaction. Make sure it’s time enjoying one another, not just on the run. Some studies show that simple activities such as eating together, reading to your child, playing or chatting count as quality time with your child.
Take care of you! Being a mom is tough, especially if you’re the mom of a special needs child. It may feel opposite of what you think, but tending to yourself first is your top priority. Make sure you follow good strategies and meet your needs so you’ll be able to give your best to your child.
This is a guest post from Ashley at http://disabledparents.org/