We know how important it is to save energy – a smart meter helps us to regulate our consumption. Caring for a child with additional needs can be exhausting and too often we are trying to run on empty. Our Additional Needs Coordinator, Nicola Watson-Bird, shares some suggestions that will help us stay ‘smart’.

If there’s a common variable that all parents of children with additional needs would agree to experiencing, it would be that they are exhausted.

Exhausted with the day-to-day of typical parenthood. Exhausted by the relentless confrontation of our own fears for the future of our children. Exhausted by the ongoing research and implementation as we continuously seek out techniques and interventions that may help make our child’s life just a little bit easier. This is precisely why finding areas to save energy as a parent is not only of immense value to us, but also to our family.

Take care of yourself emotionally

It’s likely that your parenting doesn’t look exactly the way you imagined it might be. That’s OK. Acceptance is the goal, but we need to give ourselves time and space to get there.

I know there’s no time for this most days, but I’m here pleading the importance of making time. The reality is your child is often going to need 110% from you. Making time for yourself will look different for every parent, but fostering overall awareness of our emotions and finding a healthy outlet to express them is what will keep our hearts and minds open and strong to be able to support our children.

Find your ‘thing’ – it could be journaling, meditation or prayer, singing, crafting. It’s certainly far easier and more tempting to numb and distract ourselves with busy schedules and technology, but both you and your child are worth the intentional investment of time to take care of your own heart.

Allow others to step in and support your child and family

Because of the very intense daily support and care that parents of children with additional needs give, they will benefit from stepping back and allowing someone else to step in occasionally.

Sometimes literal separation is needed to remind us that we are a separate person with our own needs, interests and identity. Time and space to yourself will give you new perspectives and clarity on your life and family.

Try a little self compassion

We have plenty of patience to go around for our child and family, but when it comes to being kind to ourselves, we often fall short. The next time you are in a stressful situation and things don’t go well, extend yourself some of the same compassion and grace you wholeheartedly offer others each day.

Cultivate gratitude through positivity

With the many daily stressors that often come with parenting a child with additional needs, it’s easy to find yourself stuck in negative thinking patterns. Consciously shifting your thoughts towards gratitude and empowerment literally changes the pathways in our brains, allowing us to feel better and to parent more confidently. Drawing your attention to what you are thankful for and to what is going right offers a plethora of benefits, including better physical health, mental wellbeing and improved sleep.

Find your special needs tribe

There is nothing as cathartic and fulfilling as sharing challenges and triumphs with other parents who are walking this journey beside you. It feels amazing to know you’re not alone; to have thoughts, frustrations and concerns both heard and validated.

A huge benefit of social media and technology is being able to network with others with similar lifestyles. Find support, whether it’s an in-person support group or an online group or page, where you can learn and communicate among friends.

You might like to try our Additional Needs Facebook page, or the Additional Needs Alliance’s Facebook page.

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At Care for the Family we support couples, parents and those who have been bereaved. If you would be able to make a one off donation to support our work, we would be very grateful. Thank you.

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