January 28, 2013

Special Needs Parents

I once heard there's no such thing as "special needs children," there are actually just "special needs parents." It's a different way of looking at things and a reminder that us parents are special and need to take care of ourselves. We have different needs from other parents because we have different (or more) responsibilities. We worry about things other parents don't have to. So with all that on our plate, we need to take good care of ourselves.

I've shared my tips on how my family does goal setting and I want to share how we take of ourselves in our unique way.

Go It Alone!

I heard this tip from a couple (it was in O magazine) who defined it as a reason for success in their long term marriage: spending time apart.

This might sound counter-intuitive since Hubby and I hardly ever get time alone together, but for us at least, we also need time completely alone. So while it is important to have "date nights" to strengthen the relationship, "absence makes the heart grow stronger" also. For us, it's important to get completely away and rejuvenate. We don't go far - we book a night at a local hotel and check in all alone! We take turns once a month or so, so every two months, I literally get my chance to sneak away.

Important points for success:
-Resist the urge to tell anyone else where you are!
-Your partner or babysitter must agree not to call you unless someone's arm has fallen off or the house is on fire (and even then, there's not much you can do about it, so why bother you now?)
-Resist the urge to call and "check up" on them.
-Plan the day away ahead of time. You cannot just up and leave when you want. Make sure the rest of the household routine and responsibilities are taken care of. Both agree on the date you will be absent and create a care plan around it. Your partner might need to have an extra person around to help them in your absence. Only leave when it is convenient, but don't make up excuses to never do it. Your partner, or you, may find out it wasn't so hard alone taking care of the kids. In my experience, our son is better behaved and calmer when there's only one parent around...usually.
-Use the time to do whatever you want to do or do absolutely NOTHING without guilt! Last time, I arrived and enjoyed the complete silence of the room. I didn't even turn on the TV. I brought a pile of magazines I had piling up (need to cancel some subscriptions!) and just spent hours leisurely leafing through them all. It was wonderful!

Keep a Routine

As much as your children love routine, so should you! That means sleep (especially sleep!), meals, taking daily vitamins, yoga, meditation, reading a book, getting physicals - whatever it is that keeps you healthy - make sure you don't forget about them! Schedule them, set timers if you have to, but do it for yourself, guilt free. Believe me, I know there are some days I'm just trying to get out the door and we've had a tantrum of a time just trying to get dressed. Sometimes I think "maybe I should just skip brushing my teeth or eating breakfast," but NO, don't fall into the trap! Give yourself those 5 minutes to get what you need to get done and you'll feel so much better. We can't all start our days feeling like rock stars every day, I know this. But promise me you'll at least give yourself a chance to brush your hair and feel human. Let's start there.

Talk To People Who Get It

Having a rough day and need to vent? Calling up your best friend with the neurotypical kids might not cut it. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who gets it. Maybe you met someone at a support group or on an online community. You don't have to be best friends and sometimes it's better that way. You know you can talk to this person and not have to explain everything. Find one or two of those people. Be the same sort of support for them when they need it.
Don't just share negative issues though - call them to share your joy. Every one needs an ally. We can't go through this journey totally alone.



special needs parents wishlist onequartermama


**Some more advice and resources for special needs families.

**A Bill of Rights for Special Needs Parents.