Stress Management Tips for Parents of Special Need Children

Stress Management Tips for Parents of Special Need Children


Stress is a part and parcel of our lives. With each and every passing phase, the degree and kind of stress varies. One of the most complicated phases wherein the amount of stress is at its peak is that of parenthood. As parents, bringing up the children calls for a lot of balance and patience at all levels. This results in a huge psychological crisis which demands serious attention. Here are some tips to improve coping skills to prevent depression in parents of children with special needs:
• Giving Up Is Okay as Well
Well-meaning friends and professionals have also told parents that they have not worked hard or long enough with their child with a disability. Statements such as “If you would just do this at home for 15 minutes a day on the weekends, it would make such a difference,” or “if only you would take the time to train him to use the toilet/feed himself/manage his emotions/cut up his food every time/etc.”.
The truth is that it could just as easily make no difference at all, and the instruction may in fact be getting in the way of your just plain enjoying your child.
• Setting Limits on Expectations
There are limits to what one person can do. You shouldn’t expect yourself to think about your child all the time. And your child with a disability shouldn’t expect to be the center of attention all the time or the center of your life all the time. It is often easy to have the child with disabilities set the schedule and tone for all family life. You have limits and your child has limits; learn to recognize both and give yourself a chance to examine the situation before responding in anger or fatigue or with frustration.
• Having Fun With Your Child
When every activity becomes ‘a therapy session,’ a lot of pleasure can be lost that would otherwise be shared by you and our child. You are the one who lives with your child, and you are the one who is being asked to do just one more thing. If you cannot do something tonight, or every day, okay. That is your decision. Having fun with your child with cerebral palsy can be a radical idea when you are surrounded by people telling you what to do or what should be happening next.
You are not your child’s therapist or teacher. Therapy and educational activities at home are certainly beneficial but you and your child need time to just fool around, tickle, giggle, tell stories and just hang out. These times are one of the most important parts of your child’s “education” and the love and social skills learned by them will stand in good stead for the future as they will contribute greatly to the self-esteem of your child – and your own self-esteem as a parent.
• Being Unenthusiastic is Part of Life
No one expects you to be full of awareness all the time regarding the disability of your child. Sometimes, you feel sad or you are worried about money or your other children, or you are sick. If other people take that as a sign that you’re “not adjusting” or that you’re “not accepting your child’s disability,” that is their problem. No one is excited about work every day. It can be tedious one day and new and interesting the next. The same is true of parenting. There will be days when your child thrills you with joy and days when parenting will seem like the most boring job on earth. You have the right to be “up” sometimes and “down” other days, and living with a child with cerebral palsy may emphasize this aspect of parenting.
• Taking Time Off or Having a Life
As a parent you need time to yourself, with your spouse or partner and with other family members, and just time without kids around. Many parents describe the first time they went to the grocery store alone after their child was born as a tremendous feeling of freedom — even though they were doing a chore, and even though they didn’t talk to anyone but the checkout clerk. There are many parts of your life and each deserves as much attention and nurturing as does your special needs child. At one point I realized that I had no social life and, even though it meant spending money for a respite worker, the time taken to build friendships has probably helped me be a better parent to my child.
• Being the Expert-In-Charge
You know your child better than anyone else as you have spent the most time and lived the longest with this child with a disability, longer than anyone else. You know what works and what doesn’t; you have the big picture and history of your child and can utilize this in any situation. Support personnel come and go but you are the expert with the experience and first-hand knowledge of your child.
As the expert you have the right to be in charge of your child’s educational, social and medical and other decisions, at least until your child can do this for him or herself. Professionals do not live the consequences of their decisions, so while you want their opinions, remember that they are only ‘informed’ opinions and not facts. Handling pressure from family and friends. And it is not just experts who put this pressure on you; you may experience criticism from unexpected quarters, such as family members or visitors.
• Experience of a parent
A dinner guest once criticized me saying I should feed my son first, not me beforehand. I do this because I know how cranky I get when hungry and that I won’t have the patience to feed my son. This rudeness reminded me that casual strangers often can misinterpret and misunderstand situations.
Parents are probably the single most important resource that a child with a disability has and often the child’s only friend and advocate. This should be respected and if it isn’t, it is time to find and surround oneself with supportive people, and professionals, who will respect this.

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