This is a guest post from Zencare, a website that helps people find their ideal talk therapist.
If you’re the parent of a child who has special needs, you likely have a lot on your plate. And amid all the non-stop appointments, exercises, and activity, your own needs may have gotten lost in the shuffle.
“Self-care is typically the first thing to go for parents of children with special needs,” says Christine Grounds, LCSW, a therapist in New York City who works with parents of kids with special needs. “And this only exacerbates stressful situations.”
Taking a few moments to check in and assess your mental health can be beneficial for helping you navigate parenting in any situation! Here are three ways you can do so.
1. Join a support group
Connecting with others in the relaxed, empowering setting of a support group can be a game-changer if you’ve felt isolated or alone as a parent. Two immediate takeaways from joining one include:
Education and resources: Whether you’re looking for health insurance information or need a good after-school tutor, you can connect with others with valuable insight that can benefit your family.
A chance to listen, and be understood: Others in attendance have similar experiences, allowing you to be fully open and vulnerable about any stressors, concerns, and anxieties you may have experienced.
Not sure where to start? Try going through your child’s school, or ask your therapist (if you have one) if they know of any local group resources. You can also connect with a peer-based organization like Parent to Parent, which will match you with parents who’ve gone through similar family-life experiences.
2. Try a mindfulness-based exercise suitable for everyday life
When you’re pressed for time, being able to squeeze in a quick, rejuvenating mental exercise – such as the following mindfulness-based exercises – holds the potential to sharpen your focus and keep you grounded for whatever the day holds:
- Self-compassion meditation. A 2018 study found a relation between higher levels of self-compassion and lower levels of stress in depression for parents of adult children with developmental disabilities. Actively practice – or even memorize! – the basics of a 5-minute self-compassion exercise to utilize in moments of extreme stress.
- Mindfulness incorporation into chores. Basic activities that are already part of your daily routine – such as washing dishes, doing laundry, and eating – can all be practiced mindfully. In one study, participants who washed dishes mindfully lowered nervousness levels by 27% (and upped their feelings of inspiration by 25%). .
3. Consider seeing a therapist
Finding a therapist can help you feel supported, and provides a private space for you to voice feelings that you might not feel able to say to anyone else. This, in and of itself, can be invaluable!
To start your search, identify two to three therapists who have experience working with parents of children with special needs. Schedule initial calls, and/or make intake appointments with each, to assess who feels like the right fit.
Above all else, you must feel relaxed – and able to open up! “Someone can have the most impressive credentials in the world,” warns Grounds, “but if you do not feel comfortable with them, it will impede your progress.”
Small acts of self-care can work wonders in alleviating the impact of everyday stressors. As your plate gets fuller and fuller, taking a pause to replenish your resources may keep you grounded – and ready to take on each day as it comes.
This is a guest post from Zencare, a website that helps people find their ideal talk therapist. Visit Zencare.co to browse their vetted network of top therapists – using criteria like insurance, sliding scale, location, and specialties. You can also directly book a free initial call to find the right fit!