You have a child on “the spectrum.” Caring for a child with autism is challenging and exhausting. His needs take up an enormous amount of time and energy, so much so that there are some days you aren’t sure if you can hold on and are grateful when you are finally able to climb into bed and close your eyes. On these days it is hard to imagine taking time for yourself or even thinking about your own needs. But not doing so is even more exhausting. Caring for yourself rejuvenates you and gives you the energy to keep going.
The following are 10 tips for caring for yourself when you have a child with autism:
Accept your feelings. Raising a child with autism puts you on an emotional roller coaster. You might feel frustrated, guilty, helpless, hopeless, confusion and gratitude. You might wonder “why my child?” or feel guilty that you have done something to cause this or because you don’t know what to do. Accept that your feelings are valid… all of them.
Find support. Talking with other parents helps. It lets you know you aren’t alone. Check with your school, doctor or local hospital to find out if there are support groups in your area. Support groups offer camaraderie and give you a chance to unwind, swap stories and laugh.
Make time for your spouse. It’s hard to fit it all in and often your relationship takes a back burner. But both of you need one another and a distant relationship only adds to your stress. Find time when you can be together - without your children.
Review your expectations. When your child was born, you probably had high expectations as most parents do. Think about your expectations and while it is true children with autism can achieve great things, focus on and celebrate each small accomplishment.
Focus on the positive. While it is easy to be overwhelmed with all of the problems that come along with autism, look for victories, no matter how small. Focus on these and pay attention to the developmental milestones your child achieves, not the ones he doesn’t.
Ask for help. You might be the kind of person that finds it hard to reach out and ask others for help but you are facing a monumental task. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to friends, family and others in your support circle to ask for help with household chores, cooking dinner, taking your children out for a couple of hours or whatever other tasks you need done. Many times people are willing to help but don’t know what you need.
Take a break. Your days are filled to capacity but try to find a few minutes for yourself each day. Spend 10 minutes to enjoy the quiet and solitude. Take a walk. Read a book. Resist the urge to use any small amount of time to try to get some extra chores done. Giving yourself even a few minutes of self-enjoyment each day helps you feel renewed and ready to tackle the next obstacle.
Use all the resources available to you. National organizations, such as Autism Speaks, local support groups or your child’s medical providers can tell you what resources are available in your area. Make sure to use all the resources you have to help make your job a little easier.
Find family sensory-friendly events. Going out as a family helps you feel that you are a normal family and helps your non-autistic children feel part of the family. Look for sensory-friendly activities you can all enjoy. Some movie theatres offer sensory-friendly times where lights are on, previews are kept to a minimum and sound is lowered. If your local theatre doesn’t offer this, suggest it.
Keep yourself focused on today. It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of what the future holds for your child. Try to keep yourself focused on today. Get through this day the best way you can. Tomorrow you can do the same. Take it one day at a time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Published On: February 07, 2014