Special Needs Parenting & Parental Burnout


parenting a special needs child

“Remember, it’s only a season of your life. Things will get better.”

As parents, if we had a penny for every time someone told us this adage we would be rich beyond our wildest dreams. People constantly tell us to remain positive and to look at all the things we have to be thankful for in our lives. Generally, this principle works, but there are times managing a family can be overwhelming no matter how much you focus on the positive- especially when a child has a special need.

The Problems And Signs Of Parental Burnout

It can be stressful and easy to burn ourselves out juggling a child’s needs, family demands, housework, extra curricular activities, and our careers. Raising children with special needs can be beautiful, don’t get us wrong. However, there are days where we feel stuck in an unending bad dream and everything is hard- so hard just to keep things running smoothly.

Parenting is a 24 hours, 7 days a week job that requires your attention 365 days a year with no vacation time. Robin Goodman, a clinical psychologist, said, “It’s often trying so hard to be a good parent that can set a parent up for burnout. Setting a high standard for the kind of parent you want to be and being able to meet that standard adds pressure.

Parental burnout is common, but few people like to talk about it. We wouldn’t let our cars run on empty, consuming only fumes until it completely stalls. That is why it is a priority for parents to care for ourselves, because if we are on the verge of breaking down we will ultimately strand our family.

So, how do you know if you are experiencing parental burnout or just having a bad day? Here are 5 symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  • Easily irritated or angry at home, work, or other events.
  • Feelings of frustration toward your child and their needs.
  • Feelings that you have no control.
  • Guilt and a lack of happiness.
  • Withdrawing from the children and involvement in their everyday routines.

Resources For Parenting Children With Special Needs

Doctors and nurses offer wonderful tools and advice for handling our children’s medical conditions, but parents often have unmet needs of their own. It’s not easy to admit, but we all have “those days” where everything seems to be a blur of negativity and we need a little TLC of our own.

If you are beginning to feel parental burnout, listed below are 6 techniques or resources that can help:

  • Develop a support network. Surround yourself with people who can lend a hand if you ask for help. At the same time, look for community resources or websites that allow you access to information and experts. Depending on your child’s condition, it might be a good idea to seek a home health aide or trained babysitter to ease the burden of 24/7 care.
  • Take measures to regain financial stability to prepare for medical bills, treatments, and equipment. Worrying about the bills and bank accounts can be taxing. One way to alleviate some of the stress is to sit down and create a plan to give you some control in the situation.
  • Take a few hours for “me” time. Don’t feel guilty about allowing yourself some time off. Read a book, take a hot bath, go out with friends, or just veg out watching your favorite movie.
  • Be realistic and avoid comparing yourself to other parents. As hard as it is, remember that every family is different and has their own struggles.
  • Set a schedule, but don’t crowd every minute with plans or worry if your itinerary falls apart. Planning can alleviate a lot of stress, but it is important to be flexible and go with the flow. Enjoy your child– the dishes and laundry can wait.

Above all, remember, Autism parent, Tim Tucker’s words “all we can do is to learn from today and try to do a little better tomorrow”.

How do you prevent parental burnout?

Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age.




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