Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It can be one of the most demanding and challenging jobs you’ll ever have. Add to that a child with special needs and the job can become downright overwhelming. Although there is no secret playbook or magic formula that can make it right, there are a few actions you can take to help you meet the challenge and practice some self-care. I only wish someone had shared some of them with me when I began my journey.
Recognize that parenting is marathon, not a sprint and taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your child. You need to take breaks and build them into your daily/weekly schedule. This is not selfish, it is essential. If you let your cup go empty, you will have nothing to share.
Focus on Progress vs. Perfection:
Acknowledge that some days just don’t go as planned. New issues come up, circumstances change, life gets messy. Don’t let these inconveniences derail you. Perfection is not the goal. Be willing to forgive yourself and your child, but always be willing try, even if things don’t go well the first time.
Make Realistic Goals:
Prioritize what you want to accomplish. Write down your goals and share them with your spouse, your teachers, your therapists, etc. Get everyone on the same page and involve them in breaking down the steps you need to take to bring them to life. Track your progress and celebrate the successes.
Structure can give focus to your day and help to set expectations for yourself and your child. As my own son likes to say “Let’s make a plan!” Making that plan can get you off on the right foot, keep you on task and make sure everyone is on the same page. Creating that structure is a great first step to jump starting your day.
Take One Thing at a Time:
Remember, if everything is the priority, nothing is the priority. You can’t realistically address everything at once, so don’t try to. By focusing on one thing at a time you can reduce that clutter in your mind, stay on track and start to see your progress.
Trust Your Instincts:
Don’t forget you are the expert on your child; you know them best. Others bring their talents and skills to the process, but they are no more important or valuable then what you bring to the table. Speak up and advocate for your child. Your perspective is critical to their success. Trust your gut! You make the best most informed decisions you can and move forward. That is all you can ask of from yourself and from your child.
Become Your Own Expert:
Be open to exploring, doing your own research and sharing what you find. Maybe it’s new therapies or learning tools you read about or talking with other parents about their experiences. Never stop learning and growing. It will not only benefit you, but your child.
A little positivity goes a long way! Don’t just focus on what your child can’t do, but all the amazing things they can do or have learned. Remember to celebrate the wins. They will help propel you forward. Above all, remember to enjoy the unique and wonderful person your kiddo is!
The parenting journey is a life-long one and it will absolutely be filled with its ups and downs. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, take charge of what you can. Hopefully, these tips and suggestions will help guide you and remind you to be kind to yourself. Stay strong and remember, you’ve got this!
Written By: Christy Mulligan