Welcome back to another post in the series about stress, trauma, and PTSD in parents of kids with special needs. This week, Dr. Liz Mathies will answer a question submitted by a parent. She wants to know when it’s time for parents to find respite for kids with special needs. Here’s a brief look at what the series has covered so far.

Post One:  Series Introduction
Post Two: The 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
Part Eight: PTSD, Stress, and Moving On as Special Needs Parents
Part Nine: Single Parents, Special Needs, and PTSD

Now, let’s take a look at Liz’s answer to a very important question. When is it time for parents to find respite for kids with special needs?

Respite is a good idea right when you begin to think you need a break. It’s okay to access and use respite care. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad or incompetent parent. It means that you need a break and you know you do. 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. In the meantime, everyone may suffer.

Many parents feel that they are the only people who understand how to meet their children’s needs. Those parents are right. But, they don’t have to be the sole caretaker for your child everyday, all day, 365 days a year. Neither do you. Allowing someone else to care for your children build resilience because your kids will have the opportunity to communicate their needs with another person, build trust and a sense of safety with others. This allows your child to learn flexibility, which allows you to get a break without feeling like your kids’ needs aren’t being met.

Another thing to remember is that though we are familiar our children’s capabilities and limits, we also tend to lose sight of where to push and challenge our kids. Stuck in the muck of special needs parenting, we don’t always see that our children can do things like emptying the dishwasher, or tying their shoes because we don’t want them to feel badly if they can’t. We don’t want to point out what they can’t do. We also don’t want to trigger a meltdown. But sometimes new people who don’t know our children and aren’t as emotionally connected, can ask them to do something outside of their scope of capabilities. And they may be able to do it! Think about the sense of self-efficacy children can build with experiences that show parents and kids that they can!

So, to go back to the original question – if you think you need respite care, take it.

What Do You Know about Respite for Kids with Special Needs?

Do you have advice for parents looking for respite care? Leave a comment!

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