If you’re like most parents, it can be challenging under ideal circumstances to make self-care a priority. Add a special needs child to the family and that goal of self-care feels almost impossible. But in order for us to be the best parents and advocates for our children, it’s critical that we find balance to our lives. And what better time to focus on creating those goals, than the New Year.
So here are my thoughts on some possible resolutions that you can consider for you and your family.
Take a moment for yourself
In theory, it makes sense. If you’re stressed, you can’t give your best. In reality, how do you find a quiet moment with your spouse or by yourself when the care for your child is so delicate? Taking those moments to relax don’t necessarily have to be away from the kids (although it’s a little nicer). Perhaps movie night at home; a game of twister; anything to bring a smile to everyone’s face. And don’t underestimate willing grandparents. Maybe they don’t do everything as you do. But will your little one be safe and enjoy himself? That’s most important and you get a few hours to recharge.
Celebrate the smallest of victories
It’s sometimes overwhelming when we consider the simple things that our children can’t do. When your child is 6 years old, they aren’t fully verbal, still potty training and only eat mac and cheese, it can become very disheartening. Firstly, give yourself permission to have those feelings. You are human and entitled to have a despondent moment occasionally. But then start to work on changing your perspective. While you’re setting goals to work on the challenging areas and know that progress will happen eventually, start to rejoice the little things that our children CAN do. To this day, I’m delighted every time my son gives someone a hug because he hates people in his space. If he tries a new food, I’m ecstatic. And my entire social network will hear about it!
Find a strong network to provide emotional and informational support
Ideally, real life support is excellent. But don’t underrate the power of Facebook groups and online forums. Our support group Autism Spirit was created for this exact reason… so that parents could find people willing to listen to them vent and support them.
One day at a time
This was a difficult lesson for me. OCD Virgo with a Type A personality usually means planning the next 10 years of your life. But this was a real resolution that I set a few years ago. I knew that I needed to change my outlook and that meant taking away my compulsiveness to plan and generate results. It was a huge challenge but by reminding myself daily to take each day as its own individual and special allotment of time, it allowed me the opportunity to appreciate the results as they unfolded, instead of on the timeline I would’ve planned.
Become the best advocate that you can be for your child
There are many challenges to raising a special needs child worldwide, not just locally. Greater awareness and acceptance is needed in schools, hospitals, business places so that inclusion and better resources can be made available. Who knows your child better than you? And who can speak on their behalf better than you? Not everyone can speak publicly. But find support groups and organisations that align with the vision you want for your child and find out how you can lend your talents to creating a unified stand for special needs.
Originally written for Care Parenting for publication in the Trinidad Guardian
And feel free to check the social media links for our support group Autism Spirit: