Finding Balance in Special Needs Parenting and Stress, Pt. 7

by Feb 4, 2016In Parents, PTSD0 comments

Thanks for stopping by Different Dream for another post in our series about special needs parenting stress, trauma, and PTSD. Today we’re discussing the importance of finding balance in special needs parenting and the stress that often accompanies it.

Here’s a quick recap of what’s been covered so far. 

The first post introduced the series, while the second post explained the difference between trauma and PTSD. The third post answered two questions: Can the stress of raising a child with PTSD result in a parent with PTSD? What other kinds of parenting trauma can lead to PTSD? In the fourth post, child psychologist Liz Matheis explained how hypervigilance can be both a cause and a symptom of PTSD in stressed-out parents of kids with special needs. Post number five offered excellent advice from Dr. Matheis about tools or coping mechanisms to use when anxiety build or when something triggers memories of traumatic events. The sixth post in the series asked for an easy way to explain secondary PTSD to friends and family who think it only happens to soldiers.

Dr. Liz tackles a series of questions every parent of a child with special needs has asked at one time or another: How can I find balance in while raising a special needs child? It’s as if the special needs issues are screaming constantly but others are whispering at the same time. How can I deal with the whispers so I’m not just focused on the screaming special needs issues?

Finding balance in your life is a journey and a pursuit as your needs and your child’s needs change over time. However, with special needs children, their needs precede yours almost constantly. Children are unique in their strengths and weaknesses. It’s very easy to stay focused on the need, the one that’s screaming out all the time. But ask yourself, “What are some of my child’s strengths? Where can I challenge my child so that he does not think that ‘he can’t?’ How do I respect my child’s special needs while still holding her to standards?”

Maintaining respect is hard no matter what kind of mother you are! Our natural instinct is to protect our children, and keep them happy and pain-free. We anticipate our children’s needs and act before they even arises. (How many of you pack a snack or Bandaids ahead of time?) We anticipate our children’s needs and plan ahead so that when the need arises, our kids are not too uncomfortable for too long.

However, part of our job is to allow our children to struggle a bit so they can build a sense of self-efficacy–a sense of “I can even though I thought I couldn’t.” To do this, assign your child a chore at home. Even though you know it may be difficult, don’t hesitate to assign the chore. Don’t take it back. Allow your children to surprise you or themselves. Let them have a victorious and amazing “I did it!” moment.

To further answer your question, try this exercise. On a piece of paper, write down what the screaming need(s) are. Next, write down the whispers. Then, think of ways to use your child’s strengths to build up the whispers to give your child and yourself the experience of success and self esteem.

How Do You Find Balance in Special Needs Parenting and Stress?

Do you have something to add to what Dr. Liz said about how to find balance in special needs parenting and stress? Share your thoughts in the comment box. We’d love to hear from you.

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By Liz Matheis

Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany, NJ. She offers support, assessments, and advocacy for children who are managing Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties, as well as their families. She is also a contributor to several popular magazines. Visit www.psychedconsult.com for more information.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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