If you’re reading this, the odds are you have a child with special needs. Maybe it’s a new diagnosis, or maybe you’re an old pro navigating the web for the best services available. Either way, it’s easy to get lost in the needs of your child, and forget about your own. So take a few minutes to dedicate to yourself and see how self care is absolutely essential to parents of kids with special needs.

Being a parent is hard, no matter how many kids you have or how old they are. But when your child has special needs, it can seem like you’re always giving giving giving. While it’s amazing and wonderful and admirable to always seek out the best for your child, it’s ok to recognize that you need support too! Seeking out time for yourself is not selfish, it’s a necessary part of living a healthy life, no matter what your circumstances are.

 

Check in with Yourself

The first step is to take time to evaluate how you are feeling. Take a few minutes to sit in a calm, quiet spot (even if that means sitting in your car!) and take several deep breaths. Then, ask yourself:

                              • How do I feel in this moment?
                              • What brought me joy today? This week? This month?
                              • What is making me feel down?
                              • Is there negativity I can cut out of my life?
                              • What do I love about me?


Think about your answers, don’t just brush them off by telling yourself you’re fine. Really take time to reflect on yourself, not on how others affect you. Once you’re comfortable with those five questions, add five more.

                              • What are the positives in my life?
                              • What am I putting off?
                              • Do I follow the advice I give to others?
                              • If I had time, what would I do?
                              • Am I making time to be social?

Asking and answering these questions each day, or even each week, can help you feel grounded. When you recognize how you are feeling, you’re able to recognize the cause of those feelings. It’s important to remember that it’s ok to be frustrated with your kids, your spouse, or even yourself!

 

Find Support

So now you’ve checked in with yourself, and recognized that you’re not exactly in your happy place. Now what? It’s time to find some support! It’s easy to forget that there are plenty of other parents out there who have been through what you are going through. Being able to talk with other parents who have the same experiences can be immensely helpful. It takes all the weight and pressure off of yourself knowing that others struggle with the same things. Here are some organizations in the area that can help.

Parent to Parent

Center for Parent Information and Resources

SPAN Parent Advocacy Network

Asperger/Autism Network

Mom2Mom

 

Read Up!

Are you less of a social butterfly and more of a bookworm? Well I have great news! There are so many books out there, you just need to know where to
look! Everyone learns and finds support differently, and if your ideal support system is learning absolutely everything you can, then maybe devouring books about your child’s needs, and your needs as a parent, is just the ticket. In the internet era, it’s easy to forget that books are just as useful, if not more so, than websites and blogs. Here are some of the top picks for parents.

GBS approved reads:

Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism – Temple Grandin

Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships – Temple Grandin and Sean Barron

The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed – Temple Grandin and Richard Panek

Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family’s Triumph Over Autism – Catherine Maurice

Autism 24/7: A Family Guide to Learning at Home and in the Community – Andy Bondy, Ph.D.

Autism and the Family: Understanding and Supporting Parents and Siblings – Kate E. Fiske

 

Seek Out Professional Resources

I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from seeing a good therapist. No matter your age, gender, or circumstances, talking to a professional is always beneficial. As cliche as it sounds, it’s a safe space for talking out your feelings and experiences with no judgement. When you’re on a plane, don’t they always tell you to put your own mask on first in an emergency? That’s because you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first!

Finding the right professional can be intimidating and complicated. There are three basic types of mental health professionals:

TherapistA therapist, is a licensed mental health professional who is qualified to evaluate and treat mental problems by providing counseling or psychotherapy

PsychologistA psychologist has a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) in psychology, which is the study of the mind and behaviors.

PsychiatristA psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) who specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness

You can read more about the various nuances of mental health professionals here.

Once you decide which kind of mental health professional you want to see, you need to find one! Before you begin your search, create a list for yourself; your insurance company, the times you’re available for appointments, and how far you are willing to travel. Not all mental health professionals accept new patients, so prepare yourself for calling multiple offices. Also, keep in mind that you want the professional that is right for you. Much like dating, you’re not going to feel the magic unless it’s a good fit personality-wise. Psychology Today is a fantastic way to find professionals in your area that accept your insurance. The American Psychological Association is another great resource.

 

So remember, you’re not in this alone! There is always someone that can help! Check in with yourself, find support from peers, and reach out to professionals when you need it. I promise, you’ll feel better when you do.

 

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