5 Special Needs Parenting Survival Tips
Posted on 16th September 2021 at 10:47
By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. I often say there is no training manual, so we must find our own style and teach important values to our children.
Parenting is a huge mine field, and we often don’t know where to start and how to help. Our most important job as a parent is to keep our children and young people safe.
Raising a child with additional needs is fraught with even bigger challenges.
Here, I offer my perspective on some of the survival tips which I have found most helpful.
1. Self-Care is vital
As per the safety advice we are given when we board a plane to travel, we need to “put our own oxygen mask on first”, before we help our children. This is so we can be fully functioning and enabled to look after them and keep them safe. In this we are both getting our needs met.
Have you ever had a time when you have been poorly and been unable to physically or emotionally, look after others? I know, I have, and I have had to ask for help and this aided my recovery. Can you start to think about your self-care routine and what that may look like for you? Would you make a weekly plan to meet a friend or take some quiet time to read that book you have been putting off? If you write it down then you are more likely to commit to it.
I have a ‘magical’ white board in my kitchen, and I put my work hours and our activities for the week and the whole family can see it and the certainty of the routine has reduced anxiety especially for my son who has special needs. WIN-WIN for all!
Self-care is different for each person. You find what suits you.
2. Looking at your own life
In Susan Jeffers book, 'Freeing Ourselves From The Mad Myths Of Parenthood', she offers the ‘life-space’ concept where we can look at our lives in a broader sense of nut just having children occupying our lives but also other social and self-care activities that we can also thrive.
3. Be Aware of your emotional triggers
As my children struggled in their school environment and learning needs with that came the dread of every parent’s evening or review of their development, as this felt very often negative and brought up huge emotional upheaval and a state of chronic sorrow for me. Once aware I needed to plan around this anxiety, and I would make lists of what I could control at these meetings and be more energised to ask the questions I needed answers for. What are your triggers?
4. Have the right support around you and your family
We have never had extended family living near us and so we had to rely on each other and fit around work patterns and night shifts and good friends. We have had to reach out for help when needed and it has been a lifeline. Today our son is part of a social enterprise, and he enjoys going out as part of this very special group. Without whom we would be lost. Who can you find to help your family? What are your options?
5. Positive Self Talk
Both hubby and I often talk about laughing at our situation which stops us from collapsing on the floor! There have been many times when humour has prevailed and reduced the stress. One time we visited a DIY shop, and we noticed our then 3-year-old was ‘using’ the toilet on display.
Luckily he had not gone too far, and we speedily grabbed him and ran out of the shop before anyone noticed!
My mantra is “It’s nobody’s fault”, or “I can laugh at the funny moments..” I am good enough; tomorrow is a fresh start” …
What positive self-talk could you say to yourself?
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