Parents Need Support, Too
By Anna Dienta
Special needs parenting is not for the weak. It takes patience, love, support and time. It’s making decision after decision about things that are out of your control. It’s coordinating a million things and picking up a screaming child on the floor because the design of the bagel bites box changed. It’s like bullfighting at times. I saw a study that being an autism parent is comparable to the PTSD of a soldier returning from war.
I want to let you all know that it’s ok to take a break from being a parent for awhile. All Parents, especially parents of special needs children, need the support of others. Someone to say, my child painted with poop on the wall today. Or my child did this in school today. Someone to cry to when it gets so hard when you tell your child to stop eating markers for the 500th time or clean that poop off the wall again!
I recently lost someone I cared about and who has a special needs child to suicide. I’m not saying the child or the special needs had anything to do with the suicide; but please, don’t ever be afraid or let social stigmas stand in the way of you getting help if you need it. Help comes in many forms, such as time away from the kids, a therapist, a trip to the salon or talking to another parent at the park.
Please make sure you have a support system in place for yourself and your child. Your spouse, your parents, your relatives, other autism parents, the children’s teachers, your child’s and your doctors and specialists should all be a part of your web of support.
Another thing that helps is finding something that soothes you: wine, chocolate, a good book, exercising or a cup of coffee. When you feel stressed out, do one of these things and relax. Take a few minutes and get some time to recoup. Put on the TV or give your child their tablet and let them watch it. Breathe and calm down.
If you see another parent stressed out, try to see if you can help them. You never know how a smile or a joke can help them make it through their day. Offer to babysit a friend’s children if the parent needs a minute off.
The stress level of a special needs parent can be overwhelming. If you have supports set up, when you need them they will be there for you. Don’t ever forget that you can do this, and you are strong and can handle anything life throws at you.