Raising a child with special needs is tough..
There isn’t a lot of time or energy left. That is common to any parent, however there are extra challenges when you have a special needs child.
Meltdowns, anger, even bruises.
Some special needs parents have days that can feel like they are battling in a war. Everything is difficult. Every decision, every discussion, every interaction is a struggle. It will most likely end with the parent a little bruised, and completely fatigued.The problem is the effect these days have on our mindsets.
As we struggle through the day, as we struggle through each event, the thoughts become more negative, more overwhelming.
This is when you may notice that voice in your head saying, “I don’t think I can do this.” It’s true, you can’t. You need to take action and take care of you.
Special needs parenting is not easy. Yes, there are many amazing moments and blessings, BUT believe me there are many moments that are just really shit, sometimes literally!
We are not less of anything if we need help.
Some time ago I noticed my thoughts had me pushing shit down a dark tunnel to doom & gloom. I had no idea how to overcome it all and was feeling pretty crappy. I needed help, advice, just someone to offload all these struggles to. I went to see a counsellor to learn strategies that help.
These strategies are pretty cool because they really do work.
Here are 5 of many strategies I learnt and with commitment have totally transformed my mindset:
- Retrain your Brain!
Our brains contain neutral pathways. Basically, we can train our brains to change our thought patterns. I will explain. I am very busy, but I still had way too much time to think. This is because I am busy alone. I learnt to recognise my thoughts, be aware of the negative ones and change them. I did this by focusing on the task I was doing. If I was washing the dishes and I recognised a negative thought, I turned my attention to the water temperature, the bubbles, anything that related to the washing up. It took time, lots actually and I still do this exercise today, but it gets easier and suddenly you realise how positive you feel.
- You Time!
You are very important. You have needs, wants and desires. It is important you take the time to invest in yourself, doing something you want to do. Set aside at least half an hour per day for you. The length of time can be whatever you decide you can manage in your caring role. During that time, do an activity you love. It can simply be reading or taking a bubble bath, going for a walk or visiting friends. Don’t forget to train your brain during you time.
- Snapshot your life!
It is important to reflect on what we have been through and be proud of ourselves. It’s amazing how much more of an impact it will have when it’s shown visually. Carers are strong, we have been through a lot. All you need to do is take a piece of cardboard, cut-out pics from magazines, or online and paste them onto the cardboard to represent significant events. Also think about where you dream to be in 10yrs and do the same pasting pics on your cardboard. Keep this piece of cardboard somewhere you can see it every day. It serves as a reminder of your strength and dreams.
- Reconnect with you.
Remember you? Remember who you were before you became superhuman? Remember the things you liked? Now make a list of those things. You may have to adjust some things slightly (you may not want to leave a note, ditch the fam and travel now) now SCHEDULE one of those things a week, fortnight or month depending on your limitations. Don’t schedule and forget about them, COMMIT and follow it through. You will feel valued and useful again, how, well you gain some identity back when you make time for you because you are important.
- Set goals.
Your goals can be about your career, family life or they can be as simple and fun as setting yourself a goal to visit a place with your children, with friends or even alone. Be warned though, because goal setting in the traditional sense can be dangerous. Okay let me explain…. hands up who has ever made a new years resolution? Hands up those who actually succeeded? I dare say most of us lowered our hands, which means most of us know how it feels to be a big sorry loser. Before you set any goal, remember a goal HAS to be something that is important to you, it has a compelling reason behind why you need to do it. That reason needs to be so compelling, so we give ourselves the best possible chance to reach it. Goals are our road maps that show you what is possible for our life, if we really want it. You can use your own technique or you can download a copy of my goal setting template.
These exercises take time and some days you will do them, other days, you may not. Go at your own pace, but try to do at least on every day. I still do them, because I made a choice. Did I want to be happy or did I want to be sad and angry? I chose happiness and doing these exercises has given me the stepping stones towards self-worth, determination and hope to reach my dreams.
I hope it does for you too!
I would love to hear from you! In the comments below, tell us if you have any strategies that help you cope on the bad days? What works? What doesn’t? The best information and tips come from other special needs parents and carers so thank you for sharing your valuable insights!