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5 Things That Help Me Be a Better Parent to My Child With Autism When We Face a Crisis

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So, you are a mom of a child with autism. And you are tired. I know. I often live in that haze between numbness and deep exhaustion.

Many of the challenges I encounter are related to my child’s diagnosis. Aside from the effects of sleep deprivation and decision fatigue, I typically deal with challenges related to my child’s responses and development, which is directly associated with the support and educational structures available to him and to our family. Even the most helpful support organizations have oblique instructions and hidden rocks to stumble on. In a typical day, I may encounter several dozen of these challenges in quick succession. I try to deal with them as best as I can, and afterwards, sometimes I am tempted to check out for the day, and defer the rest of my “to do” list for another day.

Sometimes I feel… weary.

Recovery is key.

Many of us know that it’s not the single slice of chocolate cake that destroys the effects of our new diet. It’s the other 15 slices we eat while mourning the single slice.

Connect with people in our community as we support and encourage each other. Answer the thought below.

Please help me believe it

The key is recognizing that although my energy is low now, the moment is temporary.

These are things that help me, I hope they help you too:

1. Be very compassionate to yourself.

Don’t think about all that you should have done better, or about the future that you can’t see yourself coping with. Self-compassion helps you remember that you are human, affirming your power and frailty. The psychological benefits of self-compassion are incredible, for both you and your child. When you have a moment, watch Kristen Neff’s (self-compassion researcher and autism mom) beautiful TED talk on this topic.

2. Clarify your beliefs about your child’s behavior if they were directly involved in the challenge.

It’s easy to despair and shift optimistic, growth-oriented beliefs to their more fatalistic cousins. Remind yourself that your child has a reason for his/her reactions. Clarify your beliefs about the actual triggering situation your child faced. Is it really as catastrophic as you think it is? What about your belief about your own ability to act? You are more powerful than you may feel right now. Remind yourself about your own power.

3. Be a good student.

When your energy is back and you aren’t in a hypervigilant mode, think back on the situation. Utilize your inner observer to see what you can learn, so you can prepare for this situation if it occurs again. One thing is true with autism (and many other disabilities) you will have the opportunity to practice new and better strategies o help your child. Collect some data about the environment, yourself, your child, and look for any patterns that want your attention.

4. Affirm.

If your child was directly involved in the challenging moment, don’t forget to share some warm affectionate moments with them. My friend Kaegan ( commented once that his challenging behaviors were very challenging and frustrating for him, as he wrestles with motor and impulse control issues (as do many of our kids on the autism spectrum). Even if they weren’t directly involved, take a moment to reenergize yourself through warm connection with your child. When you can, share some tender, affirming moments that can help keep your perspective on the beautiful, amazing human you get to parent. Our kids are as vulnerable to despair and sadness as we are. Let’s use these moments to affirm our positive beliefs about our children to our children.

5. Repeat step one.

You can’t do this one too often!

Even though the moment may feel chaotic and draining, trusting that you can:

  • pause
  • feel compassion
  • learn from the moment and
  • love in the moment

can help your energy to not completely dissipate, even on those high crisis days.

Getty image by DisobeyArt

Originally published: February 12, 2019
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