Seven Ways to Celebrate Being a Special Needs Parent
Seven Ways to Celebrate Being a Special Needs Parent
As I browse the Mother’s and Father’s Day cards at my favorite gift store, I find myself laughing, smiling and feeling sentimental as I look for the perfect cards for family and friends. My mom, sisters, aunts and best friends always get the sweet and thoughtful cards while my dad, brothers and uncles receive the humorous ones.
But there’s a missing card category I wish I could find—one specifically celebrating my fellow special needs moms and dads. If I were able to, I’d buy a variety of cards with different cover designs for them because one card alone couldn’t illustrate what exceptional parents they are. One card should display a medal to honor the bravery it takes to step up to the challenge of raising a special needs child. A humorous one with a planet on it would be fun because many times I feel like I’m living on “Planet Autism”. A red, heart-shaped card would symbolize the limitless love we have for our kids, and a card with a huge gold star would acknowledge the perseverance of parents who tirelessly advocate for their children.
As the country celebrates Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you should be patting yourself on the back for being the dedicated parent you are. As you receive presents from loved ones on these special occasions, don’t forget the precious gifts you can give yourself.
1. Make Yourself A Priority
This may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, because you feel like your child should be the priority. Do it not for yourself, but for your child. Putting time toward your well-being now is like making an “investment” in your child’s future.
2. Remember Who You Are
It’s very easy to allow an all-encompassing challenge like raising a child with a disability to define you. Like any parent, much of your life is going to be centered on your children, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon the hobbies, events and activities you enjoy doing, even if it’s not as often.
3. Give Yourself Permission To Have Some Fun
Don’t feel guilty for having a good time now and then. Ask a relative or close friend to watch your child for a few hours, so you can do something you like but rarely get the chance to. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or go to the billiards hall to shoot some pool. It’s beneficial to unload the weight of your responsibilities for a short time.
4. Keep In Touch With Friends And Family
Take advantage of the warm weather, upcoming family celebrations, and holidays to reconnect with loved ones. Go on a picnic or have a barbeque in the backyard.Spending time with those you love is good for any person, and not only will it help you to relieve stress, it will also help the bonds with family and friends grow stronger, deeper, and longer.
5. Keep In Mind You’re Human
No one’s perfect. You’re allowed to make mistakes, get angry, frustrated, resentful or even be a little sad at times. So cut yourself some slack every once in a while.
6. Manage Your Health
It’s important to take care of yourself, especially with everything on your plate. Try to get at least six hours of sleep a night (hopefully more!), eat properly and get some exercise.
Spring is the perfect time to begin an exercise program. A 30 minute walk, three times a week, is not only excellent for your heart, but regular fresh air and exercise can help clear your mind. A walk to the park, around the neighborhood or even a few floors of a shopping mall is just fine. Bring along a friend for motivation and accountability. You may also want to explore meditation or other relaxation techniques.
7. Reward Yourself
Acknowledge that you are a great parent. Day in and day out, you’re taking care of your special needs child. Thanks to you, they are healthy and properly educated. Because of you, your child’s needs are being met with consideration and love.
Because of all you do, make sure to do something nice for yourself each week, no matter how small. It could be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes to read your favorite magazine. Buy something you’ve been wanting. Go to a movie.
Whatever you do, it comes down to having a healthy respect for your own needs and the circumstances you’re handling. Give yourself the credit, and the rewards that you deserve.
Well, I bought my cards and gifts. There’s one last stop to make before heading home. I’m going to buy a nice bottle of bubbly and some ginger ale. It’s time to make a toast. Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to all!
Deanna Picon is the founder of Your Autism Coach, LLC, which provides support programs for special needs parents. She’s the author of “The Autism Parents’ Guide to Reclaiming Your Life,” available from Amazon and www.yourautismcoach.com.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2018 Magazine