In mid-April, I was invited to speak to some parents of kids with special needs at McLean Bible Church after attending their wonderful Accessibility Summit. (If you ever have the chance to attend, jump at the chance!) The topic of the talk was how to reduce special needs parenting stress. Since special needs parents live with extra stress, I thought you might appreciate these tips, too.
11 Ways to Reduce Special Needs Parenting Stress
- Admit that the stress is real. Do not try to be tough and deny the stress. Conversely, don’t wallow in the stress and take on the role of the martyr. Instead, admit you are living with stress and resolve to do something about it.
- Acknowledge that one source of your stress is grief. Parent of children with special needs lives with the loss of the children. This doesn’t lessen their love for the child. It’s just the way it is. Special needs parenting grief is real and ongoing. It is stirred every time your child misses an age-appropriate milestone or rite of passage. Therefore, give yourself permission and time to grieve.
- Deal with the guilt that stalks parents of kids with special needs. Many parents blame themselves for their child’s condition. Or they think they’re bad parents. Rather than wallow in guilt, determine whether your guilt is founded in truth or lies by following these 5 steps.
• Ask God to reveal the truth about your sense of guilt.
• See what His Word says about the matter.
• Look for evidence of disobedience in your actions.
• Look for evidence of a misconception in your understanding of Scripture.
• Seek the counsel of someone you trust and talk about your feelings.
- Ask for practical help. Have a list ready when people ask what they can do. Items on the list could include the following: bring a meal, pick up the kids, housecleaning, grocery shopping, pet care, lawn care, laundry, or picking up the mail.
- Let go of the exclusive caregiving role. While it may be true that no one can care for your child as well as you can, with education and training other people can care for your child. After all, the day may come when you won’t be able to care for your child. How reassuring to know someone is ready for duty in your place. Besides, your child needs a wide circle of supportive friends, not just
- Develop a support network. Build a circle of prayer partners and send them monthly updates. Find groups online where you can get and offer advice, talk to people who know exactly what you’re talking about. Make sure the groups you join are positive and not negative in tone.
- Build margins into your day. For special needs parents, this means factoring a certain amount of time for chaos. So schedule quiet time and make it happen.
- Take care of your body. Get creative about this one and make a commitment to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and get outside in the fresh air when you can.
- Take advantage of respite. When is the right time to schedule respite? As soon as you begin to think you need a break. If you wait too long to find relief, you will be beyond the point of burnout which means it will take you even longer to return to your baseline level of functioning. Until you get to that point, everyone around you may suffer.
- Find ways to relax your body and rejuvenate your spirit. We tend to place a massage at the top of this list, but there are several simple, inexpensive things you can implement. Get rid of caffeine. Practice intentional relaxation by listening to music while sipping a cup of tea, listening to an audiobook, watching a funny movie, or reading a book. Create a quiet, peaceful corner in your house where you can go to be alone. Putting a lock on the bathroom door and taking a bath counts. Use God’s word and prayer to rejuvenate your spirit. These prayers for the anxious based on the Psalms may help you. Different Dream Parenting also has several prayer calendars based on Scripture.
- Seek professional help. If you’ve tried to implement the ideas above and are still struggling, you should seek professional help. If your child is receiving mental health treatment, ask the therapist to include you in some of the sessions or to set up a separate appointment for you. If that won’t work, ask your child’s therapist, trusted friends, or your pastor for recommendations.
If you still aren’t convinced, perhaps these 4 reasons kids need mentally healthy parents can help you understand why it’s important to reduce special needs parenting stress.
Your Tips about How To Reduce Special Needs Parenting Stress?
What helps you reduce special needs parenting stress? Share your ideas in the comment box below. Thanks!
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