Single Parents, Special Needs and PTSD, Pt. 9

by Feb 18, 2016In Parents, PTSD7 comments

Single parents raising kids with special needs are the focus of this post in Different Dreams series about trauma and stress.

Single parents are the focus of this post in the Different Dream series about PTSD, stress, and special needs parenting. Before moving on to what child psychologist Dr. Matheis has to say to dads and moms raising kids without a second parent in the house, here’s a look at what the series has covered so far:

Post One:  Series Introduction
Post Two: Three Difference between Trauma and PTSD.
Post Three: Can the Stress of Raising a Child with PTSD Result in a Parent with PTSD?
Post Four: Hypervigilance as a Cause and Symptom of PTSD
Post Five: Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety and Traumatic Memories
Post Six: How to Explain Secondary PTSD to Friends and Family
Post Seven: Finding Balance while Raising a Child with Special Needs
Post Eight: PTSD, Stress, and Moving On as Special Needs Parents

Now, let’s take a look at what Dr. Matheis has to say to single parents who ask this question every single day: What advice can you give single parents who have PTSD and do everything themselves with little outside help?

Raising a child or children as a single parent is hard. When you have a child with special needs, your resources and stamina will be depleted even quicker. Here are some easy and inexpensive ways to find some relief:

  • Trade child care with other parents. Find other moms with children with special needs and set up a rotating schedule so that each you can take a break while knowing that your child is with another person who is not afraid of special needs
  • Involve the extended family. Get your child’s grandparents, aunt, uncles, and other willing adults to take your child one time per month for a few hours so that you can take a break and re-invest in to yourself
  • Create a schedule for your child. Then, stick to it. That is, adhere to a set bed time so that you know you have down time at the end of the day for you to catch up on emails, paying bills, or reading a book
  • Tap into your school. If your child is at a school for children with special needs, ask them to schedule a parent’s night where you can drop off your child for 2-3 hours for a nominal fee.
  • Find respite. Look into respite care and use it as often as is available. (More on this in the next post in this series.)

Your Suggestions for Single Parents?

Are you a single parent living with trauma while raising a child with special needs? What can you add to Liz’s answer? Leave your advice in the comment box.

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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 for more information.


  1. Jolene

    Mimi, I am so sorry to hear about your situation. I advise you to go to your local library and ask them to help you find the nearest homeless shelter or domestic abuse hotline. They will be able to direct you to resources in your area. Praying for you, Jolene.

  2. Mimi

    I am a single mother who is a survivor of Domestic violence. I have little to no help and I’m about to be homeless no car no home and 4 children who can I call I need help. Pleae

  3. Jolene

    Jason, you are dealing with a great deal and need some help. Does your child receive any mental health therapy for her PTSD? If not, as soon as she’s verbal you should look for someone to work with her. Type “How to find a therapist” in the Different Dream search box to learn how to start looking. Praying for you! Jolene

  4. Jason ghering

    I am a single parent raising my 3yr old daughter by myself. My daughter has ptsd from what she endured from weekend visits with her mother. Although my daughter’s mom gave all custody and rights and my daughter hasn’t seen her in 17months there are still effects from this. My daughter can’t leave my side,be around loud noise,and has anxiety attacks if I’m gone while she is awake. I do everything I can mentally and physically for her,but I’m getting drained and idk what to do anymore. I’m on disability for epilepsy,so where with each other all day. I get 2 nights a month after my daughter goes to bEd to get out of the house when my mom watches her,but sometimes need more. I love my daughter more then anything in this world,and damn proud of her and to be her dad. Just need help please.

  5. Jolene

    You are dealing with so many stressful situations, and I am impressed with your self-awareness regarding your PTSD. Are you seeing a therapist with trauma treatment training? If not–and I know how hard it is to get away while caring for a child with special needs–finding a qualified therapist for you to visit would be a good place to start. What you’re dealing with requires the support of others. Depending on where you live, there may be churches or other organizations that offer respite off and on. Or perhaps you could train a friend or someone else you trust to watch your kids for a little while so you can get away. Jolene

  6. A.Rose

    I am a single mom of three young children. My oldest has autism and trauma-related issues. I have Complex PTSD. It is exhausting raising my special needs son and my other two children while dealing with the effects of my own PTSD. I have no family nearby to help. I have no other special needs parents to share child care with. Respite is not available for me because I am a biological parent and not a foster parent. I am a good mom, and I have learned to overcome some of the most negative effects of my PTSD (such as the flashbacks & panic attacks & nightmares), but the little things – like having a poor short term memory, excessive fatigue, and jumbled thoughts – keep tripping me up as I struggle to keep my household running smoothly and teach my kids how to be responsible people of integrity. Any ideas on how I can overcome the daily stressors of PTSD, a special needs child, two neuro-typical children, and everyday household duties? Thanks.

  7. Sylvia Phillips

    Good advice! I know several single parents of special needs kids!

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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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