special needs parenting focus

Parenting is the ultimate in multi-tasking jobs. We have so much to attend to at the same time. Kids. Housework. Kids. Meals. Kids. Self-care. Kids. Getting to work. Kids. Errands. Kids. Communicating. Kids. Add a child with special needs to the mix, and the list of jobs grows exponentially. Kids. Therapy. Kids. Appointments. Kids. Medical procedures. Kids. Meltdowns. Kids.

And yet.

With so much swirling around us, we sometimes talk ourselves into believing we can multi-task without negative consequences. But, new research is showing that multi-tasking is not that good for us because it trains the brain to hop back and forth. This constant hopping keeps us from concentrating on either cognitive task so nothing gets done well.

Sound familiar?

Recently I read a magazine article with several tips for getting rid of distractions and maintaining focus. The piece was written for business people, but to me the tips had “special needs parenting focus” written all over them.

5 Ways to Regain Special Needs Parenting Focus

These 5 suggestions were written for grown-ups working with grown-ups, so the transfer to grown-ups raising children isn’t 100%. But with a little tweaking, they can make regaining a special needs parenting focus easier to do:

  1. Stop hopping. When a new idea or activity comes to mind, resist the temptation to hop from one thing to another. Of course, with kids have a way of forcing you to hop sometimes–like when they string the cat from the ceiling fan or have a malfunctioning g-tube–but it’s also really easy to use their hopping to justify ours.
  2. Write it down. Stop and write down your thoughts instead moving on to the task-that-has-to-be-done-right-now-or-I’ll-forget-it. Once it’s written down, it’s harder to forget…unless you lose the piece of paper or the dog eats it. Maybe stick it on the fridge with a magnet, up high where the kids can’t reach. Yet.
  3. Go back and address the items on the list. Take care of them one by one and check them off as they get finished. Such a good feeling!
  4. Avoid screen sucking. You know how you sit down “just to check email quick” and an hour later you’re still at it? Try setting a timer when you sit down at the computer or check your phone. When the timer goes off, you’re done. No cheating allowed!
  5. Set aside 30 minutes a day for uninterrupted thinking. That may feel impossible with young kids and children with special needs at home, but time to sit, think, and plan for tomorrow can make tomorrow go so much easier. If 30 minutes is out of the question, start with 15. Or even 10. Doing so trains the brain to focus on the same thing for longer periods of time.


There was a time when, as a young parent, the suggestions above would have seemed intimidating or frustrating. Why? Because I tend to be a perfectionist. But over the years, I’ve learned that special needs parenting isn’t about doing things perfectly. It’s about inching forward in tiny increments, one small step at a time, for the good of our kids.

So instead of being intimidated or frustrated because you can’t address every suggestion immediately and perfectly, try just one. And when you’re ready or circumstances allow, try another. And another. And another. Take baby steps every day to regain your special needs parenting focus. After all, we cheer like crazy when our kids make baby steps in their progress. It’s about time we start cheering for and cherishing our own baby steps, too.

How Do You Maintain Your Focus

How do you keep daily distractions from disrupting your special needs parenting focus? Share you ideas in the comment box. Thanks!

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