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10 Suggestions to Care for Yourself When You Parent Kids With Additional Needs

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Schools are back. Why then are you not filled with the feeling of peaceful tranquillity likened to that of a meditating Buddha? Why do you feel as though an electric current is running through your body, which is being held up by the clothes you are wearing as you are so tired you can barely stand?

Because you need to recover.

Many families don’t feel like this. Many families long for holidays to be never ending, dread the early morning rush and cry a silent tear as they wave their children off at the school gate. I always thought I would be that mum. But our lives are different. We are parent carers. Parenting is not simply planning exciting days out, holidays of a lifetime and art and craft extravaganzas. Instead, we plan specialist activities around medication timetables, regular physio and sensory needs. We seek out the more accommodating attractions and leave at the earliest hour to avoid the crowds. We hope for a reduction in medical appointments so our children can enjoy a break from being examined and prodded. And many of us plan all this while trying to accommodate the needs of neurotypical children as well. You’re a parent, referee, doctor, physio, OT and nurse. It’s time to think about you, so here are a few ideas on how to do that:

1. Stop. Just stop. Stop moving, stop thinking and sit with a cuppa for 10 to 15 minutes. It may feel unnatural and may feel like quite a challenge. But you need to change gears and slow down. You’ve been running at 100 miles per hour. It’s not sustainable to live like this long term. It’s not sustainable to live like this short term, come to that! Take a breath and start “walking” again. Your body and mind need to recover. There are a wide range of mindfulness apps that can help with this.

2. Have a long hot soak in a bath with no time limit or distractions. Use candles and oils, add some luxury. Washing doesn’t always have to be an essential task, but a treat as well.

3. Put your headphones on, blast some music and do a little cleaning. Clean your space and mind, remove some chaos.

4. Going food shopping. On your own. Enough said.

5. Start prioritizing your diet again. I don’t know about you, but I’ve eaten way too many pizzas and more chocolate than Willy Wonka could make in a year. Make healthy food that you can batch cook so it’s always easy to choose the healthier option from the freezer. I’ve recently changed my diet and removed all red meat. I feel more comfortable and enjoy looking after that small part of me!

6. Go for a wander around the shops. No lists, no time restraints, just you. And buy a coffee you want to drink rather than rely on it for an essential caffeine hit. Put some time in your diary and stand firm! If you can ring fence just a morning or afternoon your mind and soul will thank you for it!

7. Take a nap. And another. And another. Goodnight.

8. Remember that long lost hobby you had? Get back on it! Run, swim, sew, paint, read. Whatever it is, hobbies can be hard to justify  but remember you need this!

9. Meet that friend you haven’t managed to see for weeks. Reignite friendships and reduce your isolation. Parenting children with additional needs and disabilities can be extremely lonely. Your child needs a specific environment to be able to flourish and it can be very hard to find other families who need that exact same environment. Especially if your child prefers to play alone… get your diary out people!

10. Read the news and catch up on world events. This can help you gain perspective and ground you amongst the everyday chaos that you face.

All these suggestions may help you feel like you have taken back control of the little things in life, and hopefully inspire you to put yourself first for a bit. It’s not going to happen over night, but make room for yourself and your patience and energy will increase ten fold.

Getty image by Elena_Bessonova

Originally published: September 20, 2018
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