6 Things that Help Me with Special Needs Parenting Stress
A guest post by Natasha Cornin, an AngelSense GPS and Voice Monitoring Solution expert user and customer care specialist.
Some have snickered or rolled their eyes when I’ve equated life as an autism mom to that of a combat soldier but parents of special needs children likely get what I mean.
Although the battlefields may differ, being an autism mom, and in my case, a single mom, can require every ounce of patience, strength and fortitude you possess to make it until noon with anything left in your wellness tank. As working moms that are the primary caregivers for their children, we have even more challenges and an even greater need to find ways to manage stress in order to keep our endless to-do-lists under control.
There have been days and weeks where I was so worried about my son’s well-being that I couldn’t sleep, eat or find solace of any form. From finding an appropriate school placement to biomedical intervention, litigation with the state, and the administration of behavioral management protocols, I was quite simply exhausted. My self-care was virtually non-existent and days seemed to blend together without any distinction other than, “Today my son sees this therapist” or “Tomorrow I take him to his social play group.” I, the ‘me’ I knew before I had him, was quickly fading, being reduced to a frazzled taskmaster on the brink of despair.
It’s still a challenge to find balance as the requirements, matters and issues related to my child’s care and my advocacy on his behalf are ever-changing and often unpredictable. But I’ve come to realize that I must carve out a time and place to tend to myself, for I must be well to better manage day-to-day stress so that my son gets the best possible version of his mom. Too many moms give everything to their little ones and save little or nothing for themselves, yet it is actually a principle act of love to take care of yourself – for your own benefit, and for that of everyone you love. Here are six stress-management practices that I like to follow to regain some semblance of balance when it feels like life’s about to spin off its axis:
1. Online and Offline Support Groups
In every community, many online and local groups exist where parents gather to discuss their experiences. If you cannot get out into your community, go online and seek out groups where you can connect, share and vent, as folks in these groups are living parallel lives to yours, and they understand what even some in your family may not.
Write it out: Even if you can’t talk to folks because you feel too vulnerable, you can write it down to release stress and help you contemplate your situation. Get a beautiful journal, or make one that makes you smile every time you look at it.
3. Homeopathic Remedies
Many of us use melatonin to get our little ones to sleep, but forget to give ourselves a dose. I can attest from first-hand experience that melatonin really helps me achieve a deeper sleep, and for those nights when sleep only lasts four hours, it’s well worth looking into.
Let’s face it – we’re so tired that just doing the daily basics seems like too much at times, yet, if we can Jedi-mind-trick ourselves, we can increase our energy levels with just 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. FYI, chasing our hyperactive kids counts if we do it mindfully for 30 consecutive minutes.
5. Therapy (Professional Help)
I got to the point where I was constantly down and really needed to speak to someone, despite my Caribbean upbringing, which led me to believe only crazy people go to therapists. There’s no shame in speaking with someone professional and getting the help you need when you feel the water rising above your ability to tread in life. We are super parents but, contrary to our belief, we are still human and sometimes humans need to talk and express themselves about what’s going on. Never feel bad if you need to reach out to a professional to help ease the load.
6. Count Your Blessings
Despite the constant difficulties, there are many great things going on in your life and you should never forget that! It’s easier to look at the negatives and ignore the things that are going well, so you must find a way to appreciate (and sometimes even just see) the good things. Celebrate your child’s accomplishments, make a list of the things that made you smile at the end of each day, and appreciate all the wonderful things you have in your life.
The AngelSense community is a strong and supportive community of parents with whom you can converse to share your experiences. We are all going through similar experiences and have immense empathy for one another. Jump on our Facebook page and connect with us. Also, please feel free to share your stress-relief remedies below as we are always happy to receive them.
Natasha is the mom of Jaeden, a seven-year-old son with Autism and speech apraxia. She became an AngelSense user following the increasing cases of kids with autism going missing, especially the story of Avonte Oquendo, whose disappearance in 2013 sparked a renewed conversation about elopement and safety for children with special needs. The use of the AngelSense system has empowered her to join the customer care team so she can pay it forward to other parents of children with autism looking for an additional way to watch over and engage their little ones.