The New Year is often a time for people to adopt resolutions-especially those that are health related. Let’s face it. It is hard being a parent at any time, but parents of children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to burnout and caregiver fatigue. What these parents don’t often recognize is that keeping themselves healthy – mentally and physically – is an important resolution to take on at the start of the year and throughout for children activities.
What might those resolutions look like? Here are a few ideas they offer:
Expect your best to be different every day. Parents always try to do their best every day, but every day is different and sometimes you have to give yourself a break. You may be tired, the day may be gloomy, you may be emotionally depleted and your best may be just getting through the day. Accept the fact that your best efforts may vary and allow that to be OK with you.
At the end of the day review the stuff you did, not the stuff you did not accomplish. Many parents keep a ‘to do’ list for themselves. Sometimes they are written, sometimes they are mental. One helpful method to feel accomplished at the end of the day to remember all the stuff you did do (many of which probably never appeared on your ‘to do’ list). Life is often unpredictable and if you missed a few items on your list, you probably did a dozen that never got on it in the first place. At day’s end, remind yourself of all the incredible stuff you did get done and reward yourself with a hot bath, a pat on the back or a few pages of a book you enjoy.
Ask for help more often. Being a caregiver often means you are used to giving. Taking on the role of receiving is sometimes not a familiar one to parents of children with special needs. The way to get comfortable with this is learn to ask for help in all kinds of situations. Maybe it’s as simple as asking a neighbor to pick up some food when they go to the store, or recruiting a list of babysitters before you need them. Get into the habit of asking.
Make your “me time” non-negotiable. When planning your calendar, make sure you schedule some time for yourself and those things you really enjoy. It could be lunch with friends, an evening movie or as simple as a long walk in the woods. Put those things on the calendar and write them into your schedule. It signals you and the world that you too are important.
Prescribe a heavy dose of laughter. It has been proven that laughter is therapeutic, lowers blood pressure, releases good endorphins into your blood stream and reduces stress. That puts a different priority on spending a few dollars to purchase your favorite funny movie or taking the time before you go to bed to watch a humorous show on television. Think of new ways to bring laughter into your life and your life will be healthier for it.
Grab even a little time for yourself. Just because you don’t have a big block of time to spare does not mean you should not seize the small ones. It is amazing how just as few totally simple steps like — closing your eyes, breathing a little slower and a little deeper and relaxing your body-can relive and refresh you. See if you can capture two or three of these little respites throughout the day. The benefits are way bigger than the time they take.
This is a new year and parents of children with special needs should make sure they give themselves the resources and time they need in order to be there–healthy and relaxed–for themselves and their family.
This article was brought to you by http://www.ableplay.org a website for parents of children with disabilities to find toys, play products and often a few ideas and inspiration. AblePlay is part of the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, the leading authority on play for children with disabilities http://www.lekotek.org
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